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FAQs about Bio-Balls, Wet-Dry Bio-Media 2

Related Articles: Trickle Filters, pt. 1 By Bob Goemans, Physical Filtration, Denitrification/Denitrifiers, Nitrates and Marine Systems,

Related FAQs: Bio-Ball, Wet-Dry Media 1, Wet-Dry Filters, Biological Filtration, Biofiltration 2, Fluidized Beds, Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, Phosphates, Denitrification/Denitrifiers,

Not a prickly bioball... Asthenosoma varium Grube 1866, the Pinhead Sea Urchin. Family Echinothuriidae.

Wet dry media measure      4/5/14
I know how you feel about bio balls and eventually i want to change from bio balls to live rock in my fish only. Is there a formula to determine how many gallons of bio balls you need per gallon or square footage.
<Some rules of thumb... but much has to do w/ the size/shape of the media, types and amounts of food... Best measure of how much is gauged from nitrogenous waste measures in the water>
I currently have a wet dry filter but do not know how many gallons it rated because i cant figure out the formula or how many gallons of bio balls i
need per 100 gallons of water
Thank you
<Better to have too much than too little. I'd go w/ a good two cubic feet.
Bob Fenner>
<<So 2 cubic feet of bio balls per 100 gallons. Thank you.>>

Bio-balls...      5/27/12
Hi Bob,
<Hey Leslie>
I have been reading the bioballs articles from your site and have learned that it increase the nitrate level over some time.
<Very common, yes... a type/kind of "eutrophication"... accumulation of metabolites... best countered w/ frequent partial water changes>
I am doing some experience to find out if it is the cause of my high nitrate and i am not able to get a near zero reading from nitrate?
<Zero is almost unattainable... Under 20 ppm for most systems, organisms is fine>
Last night, i took out all the bioballs from the sump tank and have replace it by some 5 kg of live rock.
The bioballs in kept in another container with salt water ( just in case it is not the main course, i can still put it back in 2 week time) Can the bioball be preserve in this way (submerge in sea water?)
can i also know that most people call it wet/ dry filter media. Is Bacteria King Bio media also know as bioballs?  if not what is bacteria king Bio Media for?
<Please read here: http://reefbuilders.com/2011/05/26/bacteria-king-reef-systems-interesting-naturally-porous-biomedia/
I am also dosing vodka for the 4 weeks - ( 2.5CC now for my 4ft tank)
<Mmm, have you noticed any changes from this alcohol use?>
can we really do without Bioballs? with the live rock and sand cultivate enough bacteria?
<Oh yes and yes. Do search WWM re>
 i am also replenish/dosing bacteria power every week.
<Shouldn't have to>
Hear from you.
Best regards,
<And you, Bob Fenner>
Re: Bio-media, nitrate     5/27/12

Hi Bob,
Is  Bacteria King Bio media Bio Ring?? are they also known as dry/wet filter?
<Did you read the prev. ReefBuilders link?>
Bio ring and Bio balls work the same? so both do contribute to some level of nitrate?
<Actually... operates to host denitrifiers... resulting in less NO3>
Now i am confuse with bio ring and bio balls - ( need help here)
<Simple misunderstanding... any general aquarium book will describe biofiltration... or just search on.... B>
Thank you.
Re: Wet Dry media...     5/28/12

Hi Bob,
thank you for your reply.
Oh my dear,  So in this case i am removing Bio ring out off my system. Do Bio ring create/ rise nitrate?
<... I've already responded to this and referred you to WWM for background reading. B>
In your view, should i place the bio ring back into the system?

Bio Filtration (Removing Plastic Media) 10/28/11
I have a 150gallon FOWLR along with a wet/dry with Bioballs and want to get rid of the Bioballs.
<<Okayeasy enough. Have you read here and among the linked files in blue? (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm)>>
The Tank was set up on 3/7/10. I have around 40-50 pounds of Live Rock (20-25 pounds added around 5/1/11 and 20-25 pounds added around 10/2/11). It is Bulk Reef Supply Pukani so it is lighter than other rock and very porous.
<<Have not seen in person, but have heard this is nice rock>>
I also have a large Dead Coral Skeleton that has been in the tank since I set it up. Attached is a photo of the display as well as the sump.
<<I see thesenice looking display>>
I have read a lot and not sure what to do with regard to bio filtration when I remove the Bio-Balls.
<<The rock you have now may/may not handle the load; you have some big and messy feeders. But I do think this is worth a try. Perhaps you have space to add an inline vegetable refugium?>>
I plan on removing the Bio-Balls over a period of 2 months.
<<Do monitor water quality closely during the transition>>
My question is do I need more live rock or is what I have sufficient?
<<Remains to be seen>>
I do not want to add much more live rock to the display and was looking at Seachem Matrix. Seachem states I can put the Matrix in the sump in place of the bio balls.
<<Yesthough you could also replace the plastic media with small (fist-sized and smaller) pieces of live rock>>
They also stated the system will be fine with 2L of Matrix but better with 4L (or even 8L if I want) and there is no such thing as having too much. Currently my Nitrates are always high and that is why I want to remove the Bioballs.
<<Understoodthough with your system and livestock you may well need something that can quickly metabolize the fluctuating levels of nitrogenous compounds. Removing the plastic media and replacing with live rock or the Matrix product may well work, but you might also consider keeping the wet/dry (or replacing with a fluidized-bed filter) and employing a device to reduce the nitrate output (e.g. coil denitratorcan even be DIYd). Not saying you have to do thisjust presenting an option should the removal of the bio-balls not work out>>
I tried Bio-Pellets, but they have not worked out (constant cloudy water).
<<I too was not impressed/had issues with this methodology>>
Other equipment includes:
Octopus XP2000sss skimmer
BRS Jumbo Reactor for running BRS GFO (to lower Phosphates)
BRS standard Reactor running BRS ROX Carbon
Inland seas Nu-Clear 533 canister Filter (filter cartridge with 200ML of Purigen).
JBJ 1/3 Chiller
BlueLine 55 external return pump
I use RO/DI water
Airstone from Deep Blue Hurricane Cat 5 Air Pump
The return pump (BlueLine 55) feeds a TEE that goes to the tank returns (two corner returns) and then to a valve that feeds the canister filter, from the canister filter to the JBJ chiller, then a TEE to feed the GFO reactor, from that GFO reactor to a carbon reactor and back to the sump. So with that, water returns to the top of my sump from 4 tubes (the two tank corner overflows, one from the chiller, and one from the reactors.
<<Good luck with the conversion EricR>>

06/02/10 Filtration...
<Hello Jordan>
I've searched everywhere and couldn't find anything. <Really?> I was wondering if its true that bio balls are nitrate/nitrite carriers in a 37 gallon fish only with live rock tank,
<Not in themselves they are not, no. If they are allowed to trap debris then this will add to your nitrate problem, if you have them then they should be rinsed (in tank water) every week or so>.
And also are the bio wheels in the marine land hang on the back filters the same thing,
<No, they are not the same thing, but they do a similar job - please read:
Better by far is to purchase a decent protein skimmer:
<Cheers! Simon>

Bioball Use 6/28/09
Hello Scott,
I have a 200 gallon saltwater tank with built in overflows on each sides. My question is can I place bio balls in my overflows?
<You "can".>
There's nothing in there but a 1inch pvc with drilled holes my plans were to put a sponge on the pvc and add bio balls maybe a filter pad on top of the bio balls.
<Hmm, first read: http://wetwebmedia.com/SystemPIX/PlumbingPix/Oneinchart.htm regarding the restriction with 1" overflows...and do realize any type of sponge or prefilter
will drastically, like 50% or greater, reduce your flow capacity through the overflows.>
I have a 80 gallon tank I'm using as a sump.
<I would put the balls there, do you plan on having any live rock?>
I'm planning on keeping sharks and eels which I know are messy what are your thoughts?
<Not only is restriction a factor, but bioballs work best in a wet/dry scenario where they receive high amounts of O2. This just does not fit that. Live rock may negate the need for bioballs anyhow.>
Thanks for the reply I have learned a lot from this site!
<Welcome and thank you! Scott V.>

Removing Bio Balls - SW Wet\Dry Filtration 6/2/2009
<Hi John>
I'm just a little confused on the speed of removing bio-balls from my wet-dry filter because although I've read many times on the site to remove them slowly, there have also been some people who suggest to pull them all out at once.
<There is no real right or wrong answer, it really depends on how your system is set up.>
I deepened my sand bed a month ago to 5-6 inches in the display tank (90 gallon with 75 lbs of live rock, some corals & fish).
<You would be OK to pull them out all at once.>
The sand bed seems to be working as I notice bubbles popping out and my skimmer is pulling out less skimmate (although it could be the skimmer just isn't working well?).
<Sand bed it probably helping, I can't comment on your skimmer.>
My nitrates, however, have been reading 20.
<How much are you feeding and what is in your tank?, If you are feeding properly and not overstocked, your bio-balls have likely become a nitrate factory.>
Also, the wet-dry filter isn't designed to be a refugium.
<Neither is mine, I left some bio-balls in there to muffle the splashing sounds, but it ended up becoming a nitrate factory, so I pulled them.>
It would overflow if I shut off the pump.
<Hmm.... you can adjust your overflows or drains so if the pump ever stops, the sump will not overflow either. To get a rough calculation as to where to set your overflow, take the length x width x depth of the water over the overflow and divide by 231 to get gallons. As an example, a typical 90 gallon tank is 48.5 inches x 18.5 inches. and one inch of water will drain = 4 gallons of water.>
For the time being, before I decide to get a true refugium-sump, would it be worthwhile to put some Chaeto in the 12 X 12 inch space allowed which would be submerged in only 5 inches of water?
<It can't hurt as long as it stays submerged and is lit.>
Or should I just leave the space empty? Also I imagine the trickle tube will create a loud splashing sound without the bio-balls.
<It isn't too bad in an enclosed cabinet, and the higher your water level, the less noise it makes.>
Thanks for the help!
<My pleasure.>

Bio Balls in FOWLR Tank FOWLR Sys Filtration 3/1/2009 Hi there, <Hi Thai!> I'm currently running a 375 gallon (1420 litres) salt water tank with a sump. <Nice system!> I have bio-balls as part of my filtration but upon reading up on your site, most of your crew recommend removing them. <In a heavily stocked or fish only (FO) tank they are useful. In an appropriately stocked and well maintained FOWLR, they are unnecessary.> The bio balls are fully submerged and I haven't yet stocked any fish, but is it necessary for me to remove the bio-balls? <I would remove them, and then grow some Chaetomorpha in the sump> I have 100kg (220 lbs) of live rock and a skimmer which is slightly under-rated for my tank. <How much\what kind of substrate do you have?> I've got 2 power heads in the tank each rated for 12000 litres/hour (3170 gal\hr) and the return pump is rated for 3600 litres/hour (950 gal\hr). <Impressive water flow!> Skimmer is 1300 litres/hour (343 gal/hr). <Agreed, a bit under-rated for your tank> Do I need to beef up the filtration if I am to stock the tank with emperor angel & blue ring angel, couple of small triggers, butterflies and chromis? <Personally, with a set up such as this, I would invest in a larger skimmer, with a rating of approximately 2000 litres\hr (500+ gal/hr) Any advice would be greatly appreciated. <See Above> Thanks <My Pleasure!> Thai Pham <Mike>

Lighting, small SW, and wet-dry filter media 1/2/09 Hi Crew, <Hello Sam, Minh at your service.> I have a 10 gallon with 65w (10k daylight) pc lighting that is over 5 years old. I am moving up to a 24 gallon Aquapod and would like to use the same lighting fixture. <Congratulations on the upgrade.> The standard Aquapod cover with PC lighting is 64w (32 10k and 32 actinic). My corals are just candycanes (probably close to 100 heads in total). My watts per gallon will be going down but does it really matter as long as I concentrate to corals along the light path and move them to the upper half of the tank. Will my current lighting be better for the corals than the Aquapod or does it not make much of a difference. <The "wattage per gallon" rule of thumb has really hindered the way aquarists look at lighting properly. Instead, we should look at the units of lighting produced by a particular lighting set up in terms of PAR (Photosynthetic Active Radiation) or PUR (Photosynthetic Usable Radiation) - detailed explanation of these terms can be found on Sanjay's Lighting Website (http://www.manhattanreefs.com/lighting). In your particular case, you are spot on in pointing out that although the watts-per-gallon ratio goes down as your water volume goes up, the PAR/PUR units will remain the same as the lighting fixture is the same. Furthermore, you've pointed out a great strategy in coral placement and aquascaping to maximize light penetration in a taller tank.> A second question relates to biological filtration. If I have 25 pounds of live rock, sand and a sponge filter media is that sufficient. I have read about the problems of ceramic or other balls used to increase the biological population and would rather not use them if the problems outweigh the benefits. <In terms of nutrient export, the problems can outweigh the benefits. Here is an excerpt from an article explaining the process in detail, "Nitrate in the Reef Aquarium" (http://www.advancedaquarist.com/issues/august2003/chem.htm): "Such filters do a fine job of processing ammonia to nitrite to nitrate, but do nothing with the nitrate. It is often non-intuitive to many aquarists, but removing such a filter altogether may actually help reduce nitrate. So slowly removing them and allowing more of the nitrogen processing to take place on and in the live rock and sand can be beneficial. It is not that any less nitrate is produced when such a filter is removed, it is a question of what happens to the nitrate after it is produced. When it is produced on the surface of media such as bioballs, it mixes into the entire water column, and then has to find its way, by diffusion, to the places where it may be reduced (inside of live rock and sand, for instance). If it is produced on the surface of live rock or sand, then the local concentration of nitrate is higher there than in the first case above, and it is more likely to diffuse into the rock and sand to be reduced to N2." I My current 10 gallon has a Penguin mini power filter with a bio wheel and I never found a spike in ammonia even when large snails died (which I did not remove because all critters deserve a treat once in a while). <It sounds like your 5 year old system has reached a natural equilibrium. I suspect your new set up should fare well based on the experience you've gained with your current set up.> Thanks, Sam <You're welcome. Cheers, Minh Huynh.>

Wet/Dry Filters and nitrates 12/30/08 Something I just don't get; Every aquarium must have an established bio cycle to be healthy. <Yes.> And in an established system all ammonia and nitrite end up as nitrate. <Agreed.> Which in turn, slowly is reduced to nitrogen gas, and bubbles away. <This is dependent on the setup.> This last step seems to not be able to keep up with nitrate production and requires water changes to keep nitrates at an acceptable level, even in reef tanks with only live rock and skimmer. <In many cases with DSBs and/or a macroalgae refugium along with appropriate stocking and feeding it can indeed keep up.> Now, it seems important to have the ammonia and nitrite converted to nitrate as quickly as possible, after all these levels must be zero in a healthy tank. This is what a wet/dry filter is great at doing. And a wet/dry filter cannot make more nitrates than it has nitrites to convert. <True.> So what difference does it make in the total nitrate production if it is done by bio balls or live rock. That is, for a given amount of ammonia introduced into a system it will be converted via bio balls or live rock into the same amount of nitrates. <It will, the question is where does the ammonia come from?> The handling of these nitrates should also happen at the same rate. Assuming each tank has the same amount of live rock and DSB. Or put another way, If an established tank with live rock and skimmer has a wet/dry filter installed in it, the tank can only become more healthy. Right? <We disagree here.> (Yes I know if the tank is prospering why add another filter?) But in theory does my argument make sense? <Your argument does indeed make plenty of sense. The thing about it is where the ammonia originates in the first place. Artificial biomedia will channel the water flow. Certain areas will constantly get washed clean while others will collect detritus. There in lies the problem. It sits there and eventually ends up as the nitrate that these filters are so good at producing. With a LR system the flow within the tank keeps it in suspension, allowing the skimmer or other filtration to remove it from the water column, not to mention the detritivores actions adding to the process. Wet/dry filters are great and can be used in systems with low nitrate levels. The biomedia should be treated as a mechanical filter, cleaned frequently. But since it is biomedia it cannot simply be washed in the sink. If there is going to be LR in the tank anyway there is no need. My point of view, Scott V.>

Wet/Dry Filter Dilemma 12/19/08 Ok, thanks. <Hello Dustin.> I have a problem with my nitrates. My set up is a 55 gal. reef ready corner tank with a wet dry. I have a Remora skimmer, metal halide and blue actinics. I have the tank fully stocked with 100+ lbs of live rock, 50 + lbs of live sand, <Wow, in a 55? Full of the good stuff!> fully loaded with coral, and 1/2 or so dozen small reef type fish. The tank has been running flawlessly for 1 year. Recently I started noticing an increase in nitrates. Do you have some advise? I heard I should start slowly removing my bioballs from the wet dry. <Yes, the bioballs are notorious for collecting detritus and letting it just sit there, eventually becoming nitrate. Nothing wrong with removing them slowly, over the period of a couple of weeks, but with your amount of LR you need not be too cautious.> Do I need to change my filtration set up? <For the most part it sounds fine. Removing the bioballs can have a great impact here. You do have a fine skimmer for the size of the tank, how about water flow? Keeping the stuff in suspension to be removed by the skimmer or processed by the live rock/inhabitants can be helpful too.> Can I do such a thing with a loaded tank? <Oh yes.> Your advice would be greatly appreciated as I am beginning to get nervous of a crash. <I am of the opinion (with a base in a bit of experience) that �crashes� generally happen by lack of vigilance/maintenance or just one stupid action. None of which is going on here. You are watching your tank and addressing potential problems before they are dire and approaching the changes carefully.> Thanks, Dustin <Welcome, Scott V.>
Re: Wet/Dry Filter Dilemma 12/19/08
Thanks for the response Scott. <Happy to assist.> You are very helpful. One more question if you don't mind. Can or should I remove all the bioballs completely from my tank? <I would if it were myself.> If so should i add any other type of filtration in its place? <No need, the live rock you have will take care of the biofiltration needs.> Thanks again, Dustin <Welcome, Scott V.>
Re: Wet/Dry Filter Dilemma 12/19/08
Thanks again Scott, it is very nice knowing you guys are here we people like myself need a helping hand. Dustin Hanson <Thank you for the kind encouraging words! Cheers, Scott V.>

Bio Balls, Carbon - 6/25/08 Conflicting advice about bio balls and carbon Lately I have received conflicting advice about the use of bio balls and carbon in my reef tank. I was told that carbon filtration should only be done periodically or it will remove all the essential elements necessary for good coral growth. <Mmm...not 'true' per se, but can remove certain desirable organic compounds, salts> I was also advised to replace the carbon in my Fluval filter with bio balls. <I'm not a big fan of bio-balls, as they tend to get gunky. Fired ceramic?> I have your site bookmarked and trust your advice. So here is my setup: 46 gal hex with lots and lots of live rock (running 7 months) Live sand about 1/2 to 1 inch deep 20,000 K metal halide Sea Clone protein skimmer <Is this removing good skimmate? If so, bravo...but I know a lot of people who have trouble with these...poor design> Fluval 304 (with ChemiPure, bioballs, filter pads) All test parameters look good (added 2 fish and bioballs this week and nitrates rose, but only to 20) Fish: yellow tang, 6 line wrasse (new), royal gamma (new), blue green chromis, yellow tail damsel, black and white striped damsel <Note: A 46 gallon of any shape is far too small for a tang, much less a hex. They need at least 5-6 feet of uninterrupted swimming space> Corals: Hammer, 3 small Kenya trees, Ricordea (Sm), Inverts: 1 cleaner shrimp, 1 banded shrimp, 2 serpent sea stars, lots of crabs and snails, 1 small spike urchin My goal is to get coral going to add movement to the tank ( I have water pumps running). So, what would you advise about bio balls and carbon usage? <Read around wetwebmedia.com re filter media> Should I add chemicals to help the corals? <With Scleractinians, Ca+, alkalinity supplements...water changes should handle the rest, provided you do them regularly.> Can I add macro algae to the tank for the tang and to look pretty? <I wouldn't. It can really take over- and that tang just needs a bigger home, period.> I do not have a sump or refugium at this time. I have been doing 5-10 gallon water changes weekly so far. <Good. Keep them up!> Thanks for all your help. <No problem. Benjamin>
Re: Bio Balls, Carbon - 6/25/08 6/27/08
I have the fired ceramic media, not plastic bio balls. Are they ok, or should I replace with carbon? <Fired ceramic is fine...better than bio-balls, in my experience> I was told to keep the carbon in for a week and then take it out for a month. Does that sound right to you? <When you need it, yes. It probably is only functioning for a day or two, pulls out metals, allelopathic compounds, etc.> As far as the skimmer, it did great after I got it going initially, but lately it is not producing much. Any suggestions? <Cleaning the bowl and lid with freshwater, and the riser tube with salt may help, if you haven't been. Otherwise, this is a skimmer than generally only functions well in very polluted water.> I don't have a lot of money to spend at once, so I have to pace myself. <Understood. Many companies make affordable (though not inexpensive) skimmers. Look in to some of these and consider saving up for one- you'll be amazed how much they can help.> Also, am I supposed to be adding iodine and other minerals and elements besides the Essential Elements? <If you're referring to the Kent product, it isn't at all essential. Weekly water changes will keep all your trace elements in check.> Thanks so much for your speedy reply. <No problem! Benjamin>

Alternative to Bioballs 3/29/08 Hi crew, <Hello Scott.> I'm building a large wet/dry and I need the media to handle about 1000 gallons (saltwater). Have you ever heard of Springflo? It's a bunch cheaper than bio balls but do you think it will work as effective? <Yes, definitely.> I've attached a link: http://www.drsfostersmith.com/product/prod_display.cfm?pcatid=9523 Also do you think one box would do the job? <I believe so.> Thanks for the help, Scott <Do be aware the manufacturer recommends replacing this media once a year. It is not entirely made of plastic so it will degrade in time. Bioballs may be cheaper for you in the long run. I have included the manufactures website for more info on this. Welcome, Scott V.> http://www.savio.cc/pond-products/C72/#description

Alternative to Bioballs 3/31/08 Thanks Scott for the reply. <You're welcome.> If I use bio balls is there a standard "formula" as to how many I would use? <No standard, but the article I have included below gives some guidelines.> It seems that no company really has a suggestion as to how many gallons of water a certain amount of bio balls will handle. In fact only Coralife makes the recommendation that one gallon of their 1" balls will treat between 45 - 60 gallons, but no other company will give that information. <A trickle filter for your tank will be quite sizeable, do consider a fluidized bed for this application. It will be far smaller and likely cheaper.> Thanks again for the great advice! Scott <Welcome, Scott V.> http://wetwebmedia.com/ca/volume_3/cav3i6/trickle_filters.htm

Bioball Removal 2/23/08 Hi all...I hope this finds you well. <Hello, it does today; I hope you are well also.> I was hoping to get your advice regarding my 75 gal. FOWLR aquarium. <OK> I upgraded from a 55 gallon with a canister filter to a 75 gallon with a Megaflow 2 sump six months ago, and use a CPR BakPak 2 hang on skimmer. I set the sump up according to the manufacturer's instructions, using the Bioballs as a biological filter. I have been reading on your website about the concern with bioballs and nitrates. <Yes, excess nitrates can be attributed to bioballs.> To this point, my water quality tests are fine...0.0 ppm ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate. <Good.> Would you recommend adding live rock to the sump and slowly removing the bio balls (a quarter or so every week or two), or leave well enough alone? <In a FOWLR tank with no nitrate issues I am hesitant to advise you to do this, it may be unnecessary in your situation. That being said, the live rock is superior to the bioballs. With your live rock in the display you could slowly remove the bioballs and skip the addition of rock in the sump if you wish. You may even want to wait to see if you have nitrate issues down the road. With proper stocking levels and water changes you should not.> I have approximately a 1 inch bed of live sand and about 40-50 lbs of live rock in the tank. From reading your site, I would imagine you are in favor of removing the bioballs and adding live rock to the sump; I am assuming there would be no real risk in doing so. <No, there isn't. And yes, I am personally in favor of using live rock as opposed to bioballs.> I obviously don't want to wait until my nitrate levels increase to act accordingly. <You have some room to work if your levels are 0.> Thank you in advance for your help, Daryl Klopp <Welcome, have fun with your system, Scott V.>

Bio-Balls and Aquaclear 70 Filter 1/29/08 I mistakenly bought bio-balls from my local fish store not knowing how to properly use them. I just recently bought the Aquaclear 70 Filter, and I was wondering if placing the bio-balls in the filter in place of the recommended carbon insert would work and get use out of the bio-balls. The setup would be the sponge, a level of bio-balls, and then the ceramic pieces. Thank you for the advice. <You could, you will not get the super oxygenated wet/dry effect the bioballs have with their intended use, but it will give you a little extra biomedia if you wish. Welcome, Scott V.>

Submerged Bio-Ball Usage Question - 11/28/07 Crew, <<Howdy... Whoever you are>> Thank you in advance. <<Welcome>> All things being equal, if I run bio-balls in a configuration in which they are fully submerged, will I still get the high nitrate production typically seen when they are run in a wet/dry - trickle configuration? <<Not quite as high, no...simply because there will be less bacteria available to convert nitrogenous compounds due to the reduction in available oxygen from being "submerged">> Will they act as extra surface area for bacteria as with fully submerged live rock & sand? <<They won't function as live sand/rock would...but the submerged bio-balls will indeed provide colonization sites for bacteria>> I understand I won't get any of the nitrate reducing benefits as with live rock because there's nowhere for anaerobic activity to take place, but I've got a ton of those buggers and would like to use them if they can be of some benefit in my sump. <<They will be of benefit in the way you outline...but fall well short of the benefit to be had by using a porous calcareous material like live rock instead. Also worth mentioning...if you employ the bio-balls, be sure to closely monitor to ensure Nitrate production does not overwhelm the capacity of the available live rock in the system to convert re>> Thanks again! <<Happy to share. Eric Russell>>

Bio Balls to Live Rock... Making the Change 10/16/07 Hello Crew, <Hi Daniel, Mich with you today.> Hope you all are doing well. <Thank you, and you as well. I'm having a bit of post tropical visit depression.> I have a 180 gal bowfront <Very nice! Is my favorite tank!> FO tank. <Glad you're thinking about adding LR.> Current inhabitants are: 1 Purple Tang 1 Foxface 1 Heniochus 1 Queen Angel (teenager) <These striking beauties get very large. I would like to see this fish in an even bigger tank!> 1 Coral Beauty 2 Neon Gobies 1 Kaudern's Cardinal 1 Six-Line Wrasse <A nice mix. I'm happy to see only one tang as well.> Have a 40-gallon sump, containing a Wet/Dry filter, a EuroReef RS180 Protein Skimmer, and two Mag 9's in the return section. <OK.> My plan is to turn this tank into a FOWLR. <Good. Is a better for overall system health.> I have recently added 40lbs LR, <YAY!> along with 8 Hermit Crabs. <I'm not a fan... too predatory IMO.> I want to someday have Cleaner Shrimp <Good.> and possibly Star Fish, <Bad. Please consider a Red Serpent Star (Ophioderma squamosissimum) as an alternative.> however I understand they're quite sensitive to Nitrates, <Yes.> which are present in my tank. <LR will help.> About how many pounds (ballpark) of LR would I need before I could start removing the Bio Balls (i.e. the hope is to reduce/eliminate Nitrates)? <Mmm, All depends... there are many variables... i.e. size and frequency of your water changes, your maintenance procedures, feeding frequency... If you monitor your nitrates closely you could try to remove some now, but I suspect you will need more LR. Your system and your fish would likely benefit from the addition of more LR as well. Will give your fish more room to hide and will likely increase their feelings of security and will increase natural foods available to them.> I've read removing all the Bio Balls at once is a very bad idea, <Yes.> better to remove 25% every week? <This would be fine. A slow gradual removal is recommended.> As always, thank you very much! <Welcome very much! Mich> Daniel

Should I Remove My Plastic Filter Media?...Mmm, Really Need Some More Info - 06/14/07 I know you have tons of questions about this subject, but I haven't been able to find the answers I am seeking in your archives. <<Hmm...did you look here (http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm)?>> I am currently using a trickle-filter system which contains bio-balls. <<Okay>> My protein skimmer has been down for several months and I didn't realize until today that it would cause a problem. <<Mmm, yes...best to get it/another up and running>> I have an excessive amount of nitrates at this time. <<No useful information here. What is "excessive?" What type system (FO, FOWLR, REEF) do you have?>> I realize the process of bio-balls and their role in turning ammonia and nitrites into nitrates. I am wondering if you don't have the bio-balls will the live rock in my tank break down the ammonia and nitrites into nitrates as well? <<It will...and beyond>> If so what is the difference in the two. <<Maybe oversimplified, but... Being "exposed" to the atmosphere the aerobic bacteria on the bio-balls are very efficient at converting Ammonia to Nitrite to Nitrate, but this media/application does not provide the anoxic and anaerobic environments required by the differing bacteria strains that would reduce the Nitrate further. As such, these filters can/do often produce more Nitrate than the live rock/substrate can handle efficiently, resulting in the buildup of this compound. A trickle or wet/dry filter, or better yet a fluidized-bed filter, can be very helpful with quickly converting the highly toxic Nitrogenous compounds to less toxic Nitrate...on those systems that can typically handle a higher Nitrate load (FO/FOWLR systems). That's not to say that some hobbyists don't keep successful "reef" systems using these methodologies, but "my" preference for reef systems is to support bio-filtration through "natural" media (live rock and DSBs)>> I am concerned that by taking out the balls I am going to have a problem with ammonia and nitrites. <<Again...I need the specifics of your system to be any real help but if your tank is overstocked, and without a good skimmer on-line, you may be correct>> If I get my protein skimmer back up and running should my tank work out the kinks? <<Possibly...I would do this first (and check the Nitrate level) before removing the plastic media>> I have always been taught in my tank that if it isn't broke don't fix it so I only do water changes when I notice a problem or around every 3 months...it's a large tank 175 gal. Is this wrong? <<Maybe not, depending on the particulars of your system, your other husbandry/maintenance practices. But the conventional wisdom/experience of many is that at least once-monthly water exchanges are better under most circumstances for reasons of the more frequent dilution of noxious/toxic compounds and replenishment of bio-mineral/trace elements>> From my understanding nitrates can only be removed through water changes. <<This is a very good export mechanism, yes, but there are some exchange-resin media (Chemi-Pure, Poly-Filter...and likely others that don't come to mind at the moment) that can remove this compound...and a skimmer will "support" this function by removing organics that would normally have to be broken-down and processed by the system or removed by the chemical media>> Does the protein skimmer help with this by skimming out the things that break down into nitrates? <<Ah, yes!>> Is that where my problem lies? <<I don't know...but employing a quality skimmer will certainly help>> I have a fish tank with live rock (base rock no coralline algae etc) and around 10 fish. <<Oh! Okay...so this is a FOWLR system>> Since I don't have good live rock will it not work as a filter media? <<Why is this rock not good? Base rock will support the necessary bacteria just fine>> If you can figure out my confused ramblings any info would be appreciated. Thanks, Jessica <<Jessica, please write back to me with some details/answers to my questions (current Nitrate reading, amount of live rock, species/size of fishes, model/size protein skimmer, system setup - sump/no sump, etc.) and let's see what we can figure out to best serve your tank's occupants. Regards, EricR>>

Hi all. I have a few questions about the use of bio balls that I haven't been able to answer through the FAQs. My display tank is 110 gallons, a wet-dry with 1.5 gallon of bio balls driven by a little giant 1325 gph return pump, a Coralife super skimmer, 18W u/v, 50 lbs live rock, 2" crushed aragonite substrate, two Maxi-Jet 1200 power heads, and a Nova Extreme T5 lighting system (2 56W blues and 2 10000k 56W whites). My bioload is a 4" yellow tang, 2" blue hippo tang, 1.5" gold stripe maroon, 3" lawnmower blenny, 24 red legged hermits and 12 snails. I don't have any coral, except an unidentified lime green polyp (button or star) that came in on a feather duster (that mysteriously crawled out of its tube and died after I added Purple Up), and don't have any real plans to keep corals in the future (although I do have thoughts of playing with the easier to keep softs). I do plan to add a few (?) more fish (on the smaller side) and keep shrimps, worms, and other simple inverts. My water quality is good: ph, a steady 8.2; ammonia, 0; nitrites, 0; nitrates, about 0.8 ppm; temp 75-77F. I do a 10% water change every week and clean all my sponges (pre-filter, etc.) at the same time. <Sounds/reads good thus far> I have read all of the posts on WWM regarding bio balls, and it appears that the consensus is to remove them. Two things I can't tell, though, are as follows: (i) is there any "rule of thumb" as to when it's safe to remove bio balls? In other words, is there some general ratio of live rock lbs/gallons where one can feel safe that removing bio balls is okay? <More a matter of "how well" established a given set-up is... and of course the bio-load... livestock, metabolism, foods/feeding... ancillary filtration (e.g. skimming)...> I'm sure this is a function of several variables (e.g., fish load, fish types, etc.), but any general guidance would be greatly appreciated. I guess more specifically to my system, do I have enough live rock and substrate (what's the difference between "live sand" and aragonite that's been sitting in my tank for 3 months?) to support a bio ball-free zone? <Heeee! Almost all systems, once up and going for a few months can take the removal of such plastic media... Some folks advocate slow, partial removal over a period of weeks...> I am toying with buying some ugly, small pieces of cured live rock that no one wants to throw in my sump in place of the bio balls. There wouldn't be much, if any, light on the rock, though, and I'm wondering whether the rock would remain viable in that type of environment. <Will work> (ii) alternatively, can I keep the bio balls and deal with any excess nitrate by being vigilant about water changes? <Perhaps... with age of the system, its contents however, you will find the nitrate concentration "creeping up" with the bio-balls present, far more so than w/o> Seems like my parameters are great, although I know my tank is young and my bioload is light. <Ah yes> Thanks for all your help. This site is really a huge and wonderful resource. Andy <A pleasure to share Andy. Bob Fenner>

Getting Rid Of My Bio-Balls - 05/07/07 Hi, <<Hello>> I spend a lot of time reading your site for answers, great site. <<Thank you>> Anyway I have a 500gal reef tank, currently having problems with algae, and have been reading about getting rid of the bio balls. <<Yes, there are better methods...and with your live rock/substrate the bio-balls are likely not even necessary/essential to the system>> I have an AquaMedic 500. I understand to gradually replace the balls with live rock, and also understand that the live rock should be submerged. <<Yes...though the addition of live rock is not often a necessity as most hobbyists have enough already in the display>> The problem is that at the moment the bio balls are not submerged, and if I replace them with live rock and fill the sump with enough water to submerge it, my protein skimmer then stops working. <<I see... Then assuming the rock/substrate in the display is adequate, simply adjust the water level to whatever height is optimum for your skimmer (leaving out the rock) and maybe add a bag or two of chemical filtration media>> Any suggestions or answers as to why this happens. <<See previous statement>> Also, can I use carbon if it is placed between the white filter medium which is on top of the sponge. <<Sure...you can place carbon just about anywhere along the filter flow path>> Tank been now going for 2 years, and am now having problems, have tested everything, now have a refugium, bio balls being my last resort. Please Help. Kay. <<Regards, EricR>>

Removing Bio Balls and Fish selection 4/26/07 Hey guys, hope you all are doing well today. <Am, thank you!> I'm a long time reader/researcher of WWM, but have always found the answers without having to submit a question. <They are there, for sure.> I guess this is thanks to the many who have asked before me. I have a quick question about removing Bio Balls from my setup. I upgraded from a 29 gallon tank which had been running for 3 years with a hang on filter system and about 50 pounds of LR. The new setup is a 125 gallon with 30 gallon sump. I originally setup the 125g with a wet/dry with bio balls and (underrated) skimmer. The 125g has now been setup for about 5-6 months. I put all 50lbs of LR in with about 200lbs of rock that used to be live and had been sitting dry for a few years. I also used the old filter foam for a few weeks to help seed the new tank. I just ordered an Aqua C EV180 skimmer that should be here within a week. The only problem is that I will not be able to raise it high enough in the stand (only have about 25 inches under tank) to have it sitting above the top of the sump. This means that I will probably need to put it in the sump (unless you can think of another way). Well, the wet/dry takes up too much of the sump to fit both it and the skimmer inside. I have read numerous times that wet/dry is not needed with enough live rock in the tank. My question is, given the tank info/stocking below, have I spread enough of the "live" to the older rocks in 6 months to be able to get rid of the bioballs? <Certainly. Keep in mind that there may be a short spike as the remaining bacteria works to compensate for the loss in population.> I do know that they need to be removed slowly, but I don't want to remove them if I will not have enough filtration in the system. By the way, I have already gone through the diatom and Cyano blooms associated with a new tank, and the hair algae is starting to recede (hopefully the new EV180 will help also). Also, I am thinking about researching some corals to add possibly, please take a look at my fish stock and let me know if you see any obvious problems with going to a reef setup. Sorry for the long question/explanation, and thank you in advance for you help. <Let's take a look.> Size: 125g FOWLR w/ dual overflow PH: 8.2-8.3 Salinity: 1.023 Ammonia: 0 Nitrite: 0 Nitrate: <5ppm (0 after water changes) Alk: 11.5 Calc: 400+/- a few <Don't try too hard to maintain this number. In fact, feel free to let is dwindle to 350-375> Phosphate: 0 Temp: 78-79 Fish: Hippo Tang (6") Singapore Angel (3-4") <Nice pick. One of the smaller angels.> Damsel - Neoglyphidodon Oxyodon, not sure of the common name (4") <That's the "jewel damsel" to most (and a big one at that). Do you google? Snowflake eel (15") <Hmm, an oddball. Is this a centerpiece, I wonder? Keep in mind that any moray will limit your future species by virtue of it's messy eating habits and subsequent pollution of the water.> All extremely healthy with good colors/active/eat well <Looks good to me, as a whole. I would thoroughly research any future additions and keep them smaller than 4" and not very numerous. You are close to the end of my comfort level here.> Thanks again Scott <Glad to help! -GrahamT>

Bio-Ball Removal 3/28/07 Hello Crew! <Hi Scot! Mich here.> Thank you for being the site I turn on all of my questions about marine aquarium needs. <You're welcome and we are glad to hear this.> I want to remove the Bio-Balls from my sump and replacing it with live rock, but I have some questions that I have been unable to find the answers on and I also like to check with the experts when I am planning on making a change to the tank. I have a Tenecor 180-gallon rear sump system that has four 3/4 inch returns that are divided into two sections I am using two Maxi-Jet 900's as wells as two Maxi-Jet 1200's as returns. My questions are as follows: 1. How should I remove the Bio-Balls as to not cause a spike to the system? (Tank has been up for five and a half months.) <Just remove gradually, maybe a quarter of them at a time.> 2.. How much live rock should I put into the sump? <What you can comfortably fit.> 3.. Should I use rock from the display to "seed" the sump rock? <Could, but no need really. Will be seeded naturally.> 4.. Do I need lights for the rocks in the sump? My background is black. <No.> 5.. Do I need to have the live rock completely submerged or is it OK to have the water trickle over it like the Bio-Balls? <Better submerged.> Thank you for your invaluable help to my aquatic friends and myself. <Welcome! -Mich> Scot Re: Bio-Ball Removal 3/28/07 Mich, thank you for your prompt reply on my question. <Welcome Scot.> Knowing that it would be better submerged, should I remove one of the returns and allow more water to enter the sump? I ask this because I know it will fill up if I allow one of the returns to be open and it will not fill up if I use the central intake only. <I would just add water to the sump to keep the water level higher.> Also should I also upgrade the return pump to something in the range of a Mag 3 or 5 to increase the flow to the back sump? <I don't think this is necessary.> Again, thank you for your wisdom and guidance. <Welcome, -Mich> Scot

Bioballs!! Unfortunately not a re-make of the hilarious Mel Brooks "Space" send-up... - 03/24/07 Hi, <Hello to you> I am setting up a 180-gallon saltwater FO tank. <Nice size> I'm putting in a 150 gallon sump but don't know how much bio balls to use. The sump is extra large at the moment to accommodate the 500 gallon upgrade in the future. <Scott, there are very mixed opinions on the use of Bio-Balls in aquaria. Some see them as a "Nutrient Factory" and others swear by their use. They require a degree of maintenance compared to other options, including rinsing etc. Is there room in your sump for a Refugium? This doesn't need to be a large space, maybe a few 10's of gallons of sectioned area. This would be far more practical and beneficial for you and your system See here - http://www.wetwebmedia.com/refugium.htm Although with it being a FO system the demand for nutrient free water will be less, with periodic washing of the bioballs to remove excess build-up and likely increased water changes this should be manageable, but do look into refugiums and live rock which I feel would benefit you and your system a lot more> Also I've heard from my LFS that bio balls can be completely submerged in the sump and work just as well as if water was trickled over them, is this true and practiced? I thought that all sorts of reactions went on with the water mixing with the oxygen? I could be way off though! <You are right in pointing out varying reactions with the oxygen and water. Normally I feel that they work better semi-submerged, water trickling over them, as this allows the bacteria that "live" on them better access to oxygen in the air, whereas when they are submerged they are only able to use dissolved oxygen which they have to compete with the fish and other life for> Thanks, Scott <Hope I've been of help, Olly>

Bio balls, placement of skimmers, lg. ap.s - 03/09/07 Hi there, <Corrine> I am pretty new to all this aquarium stuff (having worked in an aquarium many years ago). I am trying to set up a system which hasn't been used for several years. We have a number of aquarium trays on frames to be used for various research projects. This includes an Aquasonic foam fractionator and a huge tub of bio balls. They have been left dry for some time. <No worries... can be repopulated easily enough> What do I need to do to them before restarting the system. They are a bit dusty and probably need a clean - is there any other treatment I need to do? or can I get it going straight away. <Just rinse them off... I would not even go to extraordinary lengths (e.g. bleaching...) to rid them of material... install and wait a while... or avail yourself of some established culture material or commercial prep.> Also, should the tank water go through the bio balls before the foam fractitioner or the other way around - or either? many thanks Corrine <Actually, matters little in large or commercial applications as in yours. I would arrange all such that it is easiest for these areas, gear to be serviced. Bob Fenner>

Re: bio balls - 3/12/07 Thanks for the info Bob. Where would I get culture material or commercial prep? <Can buy... e.g. BioSpira... Marineland product... or just use some source of culture...> and what does this material consist of? Regards, Corrine <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm and the linked files above. BobF>

Bio-ball replacement w/ Siporax media 2/4/07 Hello All, <Hi Jackie. GrahamT here.> Unfortunately <?> I have a wet/dry filtration with 20 gal sump to support my 90 gal reef system. I am thinking about replacing my bioballs (dry section) with a product called Siporax filter medium. <OK> What do you think? My nitrates run about 20 ppm. <As far as hoping to alleviate the "nitrate factory" that bio-balls are, you won't be changing much IMO. The media will still need to be cleaned frequently to prevent accumulation of food particles and other detritus to prevent it breaking down into various forms of ammonia and phosphate. This is really the key to proper utilization of and bio-media. Give this a try: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm and do some google-ing on WWM re: bio-ball(s) and other relevant terms (rinse, nitrate factory, etc.) -GrahamT> <<Mmm, RMF really likes the Siporax product... and even if exposed to both air and water you should get some relief (denitrification) from nitrate production/accumulation>> Thanks, Jackie

Confusion re Bioballs - 11/13/06 Thank you for taking the time to respond to yet another query. It seems the more that I am reading on certain subjects the more that I am getting confused. I am going to set-up my new 180-gallon tank this weekend and want to make sure I have all my bases covered on this endeavor. The tank has a built-in wet/dry with bio-balls. My tank is FOWLR and will have 200lbs of Fiji rock and a 1-? inch live sand bed. I have read and reread the arguments about the bio-balls on this system. Some say that they are OK with a FOWLR and other state that they will become a nitrite factory and should be removed. <Can be left in place in many cases...> If they need to be removed, I would like to do this before the set-up is complete. I will have two AquaC Remora Pros one with a Mag3 and the other with a Mag5 for pumping. <Two?> I have a 5-liter overflow for these skimmers so that the matter will not come back into the tank. I also will have one Tunze 6060 in each of the corners and two Maxi-jets in the LR to cover dead spots. I will not have a canister as they tend to spike the nitrates also and it has become superfluous with this new tank. I will also have Chemi-pure in the sump for chemical filtration as well as PURA filtration Pads. Thank you for your expert guidance on this query. You all are an invaluable resource to the marine aquarium community. Scot <I seriously doubt the presence/absence of the Bioballs will make any difference here. Bob Fenner> Bio Balls & Nitrate Question 11/12/06 Hello Crew <Howdy> Prior to purchasing any soft coral for my 55 gallon tank I wanted to ask your opinion on filtration. <Ask away> I have about 70 lbs of life rock and a 3 inch live sand bed. I have an Aqua C Remora skimmer, 2 Hagen 30 power heads and a Hagen 50 power head in the middle that has a rotating wave maker head on it. <Sounds good so far> I currently have an Emperor 400 filter with bio wheels and the nitrates are around 20. I know that I need to lower them and was wondering if I should just use the Emperor as water movement and remove the bio wheels from it as well as the filter cartridges. The skimmer has the pre - skimmer attachment and I can add activated carbon in that. I also currently have a lot of fake decorations. Would they be Nitrate traps? <If not kept clean, yes> Any advice is much appreciated. Thank you for your time. <I would consider the bio wheels as unnecessary rather than a nitrate trap. They are too small to really make a difference with that much rock. I would take them out. I'd also make sure your pre filter and skimmer are kept clean. Cheers! - Dr. J>

Moving Aquarium 11/12/06 Hi, <Hello> I'm moving my aquarium and wet-dry filter to a different location and was wondering which would be better; a) should I immerse the bio balls in a container filled with the aquarium water, or b) should I put the bio balls in a small quantity of aquarium water and cover the container with a wet cloth. Which would let the bacteria last longer? Thanks, Rich Aylward <If the move is an hour or two maximum, submersing is the route I would go... if much longer... just the moist cloth. Bob Fenner>

Removing Bio Balls in my Reef Aquarium 10/26/06 Hello! <Hey there, hi there, ho there> I have a few questions about removing the bio-balls in my 6 month old 210 Gallon reef setup. I want to first say thanks for the great service that you all provide! <Welkomen> Setup 210 gallon All-Glass 300-350 Lbs of Live Rock 2.5"-3" DSB Coralife Needle-wheel Super Needle-wheel skimmer 220 Gal. Living Color 250 Wet/Dry filter Aqualight Pro 72" w/ 250W HQI 10,000K Metal halides & 4 96W Actinic Fish / Inverts 2 - Ocellaris Clowns 2 - Pink Skunk Clowns 1 - M. Doreensis Pulsing Xenia Waving Hand Xenia 2 - Cardinal Cleaners <Wonder what these are> 1- Yellow tang 1 - Coral Beauty 1 - Flame Angel 3 - Blue/Green Chromis Yellow Leather (Small) Pagoda Coral Torch Coral Blue Legged Hermits & Turbo Snails Over the past month I have been having outbreaks of red slime algae witch <which> I have been trying to remove. I perform a 10% water change each week using RO water. (I actually buy my saltwater water pre-mixed at the LFS). <Mmm, I'd look into getting/using your own RO, making, storing your own water... much more convenient and money-saving> I have already removed the pre-filter over my bio-balls and the sump sponge in an effort to have my skimmer take over the work. (This has shown some success as my Nitrates went from 10 to 5 ppm). My last test was; Ammonia - 0 Nitrites - 0 Nitrates - 5 Phosphates - < 0.25 <Much more may be rapidly bound up by the BGA> Calcium - 450 pH - 8.4 SG - 1.022 Question #1 - I would like to remove the bio balls from my setup as I feel like they may be contributing to my nitrate / slime algae situation. Would you recommend removing them in lieu of live rock? <Yes> Question #2 - If so, how do I remove them? A quarter per week maybe and check water quality? <Can be taken out all at once in this set of conditions/circumstances> Question#3 - Do I need to add any rock in the wet/dry to replace them or do I have enough in the display tank along with the sand to take care of the biological filtering? <Likely do not need any more> All life in my tank seems to be doing well and I don't want to do anything to change it for the worse, just better. Thank you again for all of your assistance. Regards, Dean <Again, welcome. Bob Fenner>

Bio Balls - 08/11/05 Hi everyone, <Hello Adam> Just a quick question , I have a sump with bio balls and matrix rocks, should the bio balls be dry or submerged? Does it make a difference? <Should be in the dry chamber. Does make a difference as it breaks the water up and provides much more air/water exchange. Thanks <You're welcome. In future queries please cap your letters where required. Saves us time if we do not have to do it. Thanks. James (Salty Dog)> Adam

Saltwater Query from Dubai, Nitrates and Bioballs - 8/9/2006 Hi, <<Hello. Lisa here today.>> It's a great website you have put together and provides loads of information to the new as well as advanced aquarists. <<Not my site, but I enjoy it much as you do.>> I need some help I?m very much impressed with the help I found from the articles on your site, but since I read a lot now I'm confused. <<Aww, don't worry, it can be overwhelming at times.>> I've been keeping a saltwater aquarium for around 2 years now, it is an only fish and live rock system; no corals or invertebrates. Its got around 3" of coral sand as base, 2 power heads for circulation and a protein skimmer. I'm also running an Eheim canister filter with bio balls and ceramics. My trouble is that I've been fighting nitrates for a long time in my aquarium I managed to only keep it in control from the danger zone but as your articles suggests there are possibilities to achieve 0% nitrates. My doubts is that it could be the bio balls and ceramics that are causing the nitrates to store up but before I go do something stupid like remove them all out and depend on the live rocks to take action I need some professional advice. <<I agree that the removing the bio-balls will help here, as will reducing your sand bed depth significantly.>> I read some articles where they say deep sand beds reduce nitrates, then there is a plenum, etc so I don't know which I should choose. Also many suggest keeping the live rock as a main biological filter. Does that mean I can cut off my canister filter here onwards? <<Alright, here is my take. On a tank like yours (FOWLR) I would not worry too much about achieving 0 nitrates, but trying to get close is important. I also don't think you should have a DSB in the display-all of mine are in remote vessels. This can be an undertaking though, and have a whole new set of problems. My advice for you is to slowly remove the bioballs over the next few weeks, replacing it with live rock (cured of course). I do not run canisters on any of my saltwater tanks. I would also increase the flow in your tank, depending on how small your tank is and how large the 2 power heads you have now are. Lots of water changes, live rock, lots of flow, and a powerful skimmer are my best tools for keeping successful FOWLR tanks.>> Please advise. Thanks Vinesh, DUBAI <<Hope that helps. Lisa. CANADA.>>

Filters...Wet/Dry To Ecosystem 8/3/06 Greetings and thanks for all of the great info. <You're welcome, Paul.> After an exhaustive search I am unable to find any info on this question. I have a 90 Gallon tank with appropriately sized wet/dry filter (my mistake) with skimmer and I can not seem to get my nitrates down, currently 20ppm. I am changing 20 percent of the water every two weeks. Inhabitants include Hepatus Tang, 6 Green Chromis, Lawnmower Blenny, Royal Gramma, Cleaner Shrimp and False Perc Clown. Mushrooms, Xenia, Green Starbursts round out the crowd which all seem to be doing well presently. I have 90 lbs live rock and a shallow sand bed. When I started this venture I intended FOWLR but now want to establish a reef. Tell me if this plan sounds ok. I intend to remove the wet/dry using the bioballs from it in the Ecosystem filter in place of the ones that it comes with. <No need to do this. Would not use any bioballs in the Ecosystem. See comment below.> I will have new water premixed to replace the content of the wet dry taken out at the change. At this point the skimmer will obliviously be gone also. Am I likely to have an ammonia problem with this approach? <Should not.> Am I missing something that will harm my friends? <If you have no live rock, then you should use the old bio-balls until the Ecosystem gets seeded, then I'd remove them.> I have read that an undersized skimmer is appropriate to use with this system and I am considering an Aqua C Remora. <Would be a good choice. You may also consider one of the Ecosystems with built in protein skimming.> Your hard work on this site is greatly appreciated. <Thank you, James (Salty Dog)> Paul Powell

Removal of nitrate producing bio media 7/15/06 Hi Crew, <John> I have a 29 gallon reef system with 3 fish and a CPR skimmer. I have recently noticed decline in SPS and LPS corals. Well, I checked nitrates a WOW 20 ppm . So I did a water change and they went down, but now they are climbing again. <Not unusual... in small systems over time...> I have a ProClear brand 60 wet dry filter with blue pin bio balls. I am having a feeling that removing these bio balls will help the overall health of my system greatly. <Yes, likely so> They have never been cleaned. I want to convert this into a nice clean sump, so I want to know how to remove them. Should I do it all at once or every X days or weeks? <Please read here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm and the linked files above> I don't want to have a mini cycle. Other equipment includes a Skilter 250 stripped of everything inside serving just as a hang on refugium and for surface water movement as well as the CPR BAK PAK skimmer with the MaxiJet. I will be vacuuming, draining, and sponging down the sump area of the wet dry on Monday with a weekly water change. thank you <Can likely pull all in one go... Bob Fenner>
Re: Cleaning biomedia/fuge cycling 7/15/06
Oh, sorry I forgot to give examples in my previous reply. <Ah, good. A statement w/o an example is hollow...> "<It's ok to rinse everything but the bio-balls in freshwater. If you need to clean off the balls for some reason, do it in tank water.>" "Do not clean the bioballs once they are cycled." "It is often necessary to properly rinse these items often to decrease the amount of detritus" <Thanky. Bob Fenner>

Maintenance...Cleaning Bio Balls 6/22/06 Hi to all WWM Crew <Hello Christo> My trickle filter medium is covered with all sorts of muck that must have passed via my pre-filter which have been running for about 5 months now. I have read that one should only clean about a ? of the Bio Balls at a time, then give about 1 to 2 weeks before cleaning the next etc. <If you have plenty of live rock in the system, I'd clean all the balls at the same time.> The question I have is, if I also have filter medium (Broken Coral Pieces) in my sump, could I then clean all the Bio balls in the wet/dry Trickle filter at once, as there will also be bacteria living in my sump to continue the de-nitrifying process? When I say cleaning the Bio Balls I mean rinsing them in water obtained from the aquarium. <In that regard, you can clean them all at once as long as you are just rinsing them. James (Salty Dog)> Best Regards Christo

Reef Bio Filtration...Keep the Bio-Balls? - 05/15/06 Thanks for all of your help thus far! <<You're welcome>> I have one more question. <<Okay>> I have a 72 gal reef tank with a new wet/dry filter setup on it. Right now it has bio balls in it. Do I keep them or remove them? <<In a reef system with plentiful live rock the bio-balls are unnecessary, and maybe even to be avoided due to the fact they produce nitrate very quickly/efficiently but with out the capacity to take the process to the next level as the live rock is able to do...thus creating an excess of nitrate for the system to deal with. Best to use live rock/live sand beds for biological filtration in a nitrate sensitive system like a reef tank...in my opinion>> Will eliminating them cause a problem or should the live rock take over or should I keep it the way it is? <<The live rock will take over. If your system is lightly stocked you can take the bio-balls away at any time...otherwise, remove half now and half in a bout a week's time>> Along with it I am running a Sea Storm 100. <<This is great for a FOWLR or FO system...but functions much like the bio-balls in a reef system>> Do I remove this also? <<Would be better to convert it to a carbon reactor or similar>> I do have 5 medium fish in the tank. What do you recommend? <<As already stated>> Thanks! Chris <<Quite welcome, EricR>>

Megaflow/Bioball Questions 2/13/06 Hi, Bora Again, <And Bob> Just adding another question to the pile and thank you for sharing years of experience and knowledge with us. (The Question People) To be brief, I have the dumbest question actually but I had to ask it... <Go ahead> 1- Might Mega flow's "megaflow" area be causing a problem area, it is kind of looking dirty so far and this is my first experience with Megaflows. (running with ViaAqua 3300) <Yes... don't want too much accumulation of "gunk"> 2- (Here the question only gets better) :) Can I actually use that area as a "sugar fine aragonite" DSB area as well? <Yes> Also I have a bioball question, too. (I am sorry to add on like this) <Will store under SW filter., no worries> 1- Scientifically, I thought the "sphere" has the largest surface area. So actually even a golf ball should have a larger surface area than the commonly blue bio-balls. <Ahh... but with their internal area...> Plus a perfect sphere does not have the dead spots like the bio-balls on the market. I did read and tried to skim through all bio-ball, sump, filtration material but couldn't see any comparison over the shape of the balls. I would appreciate if you shared your thoughts or direct me to a spot on WWM or elsewhere. Thank so much in advance for your time. <Many types of shapes, material have been tried, devised for such aerobic digestion over the years... the many sided "balls" are close to ideal for the purpose... though driving nitrification is only part of a "real" or complete understanding of the processes, consequences and patterns of "filtration", captive and not. Bob Fenner>

Bio-media and No3 relationship - 01/24/06 Hey guys! <What's up?> Just short and sweet one! <That's what they always say.> Do Ceramic rings lead to a raise in No3? <Not directly, however; ceramic rings and other plastic media in general are quite proficient as a breeding grounds for nitrifying bacteria that breaks down Ammonia and nitrite but not nitrate (No3). Furthermore plastic media and ceramic rings are often employed in canister filters and they often trap detritus and I've way to nutrient problems and elevated No3 levels. So overall I prefer to use live rock for biological filtration or macro-algae refugium for nutrient export…and of course always use a protein skimmer.> I have ceramic rings in my overhead Wet/Dry filter. Regards <To you as well.> Apurva <Adam J.>

The great Nitrate - Bio Ball Controversy 11/9/05 Hello. <Hi there> I first off would like to commend you on providing a wealth of knowledgeable, applicable information. Thank you ever so much. <Welcome commensurately> I have a 5 year old 72 gallon reef tank containing roughly 80lbs of live rock, 1 inch of oolitic sand, (1) purple tang, (2) damsels, (1) Some type of butterfly fish (I know he doesn't belong in the reef tank but I felt sorry for him as he had a rough life, he has a great personality, he hasn't gone after any coral or anything (yet) and since my Tang and him are buddies I am allowing him to stay until stuff starts disappearing) a peppermint shrimp, 10 red legged hermits, several Astrea snails, pipe organ coral, green star polyps, colt coral and pulsating Xenia. Not a major bio load in 100 gallons of water (with sump). I feed only as much as the fish will eat aggressively twice a day and I feed Formula 2 and Brine Shrimp Plus (one for the herbivore and one for the carnivore though they share to a degree :) ). I do at least a 10% water change monthly/bimonthly depending on my schedule. I have a well that my make up water comes out of that tests zip for all the nasties, (0) Nitrite, (0) Nitrate (0) Phosphate, (0) Ammonia (0) pesticides (0) heavy metals and comes out of the tap at 8.2 PH. Lastly I drip Kalk, Iodine and Strontium/Molybdenum for good measure. <So far...> The filtration consists of a 45-gallon sump, Berlin Turbo Protein Skimmer, a refugium with 1 inch of oolitic sand (problem?), <Nope> macro algae and (here it comes, are you sitting down) a wet dry with bio balls (gasp, choke, cough etc). <Heeee!> I am circulating roughly 1000 gallons per hour through the system. I have a filter pad on top of the wet/dry tower where the water enters from the overflows above that I clean religiously every day, twice or more a day if I disturb any detritus in the show tank when I dust off the live rock, clean glass etc. <Good!> The first section of the sump is bare bottom, which enables me to siphon out any settling detritus that the filter doesn't catch. The water then goes through a bubble trap into the next section, the refugium that has (1) inch of oolitic sand, a little live rock and macro algae, and finally the return section with no sand since I don't want to take the chance of having it get up in the pump. My issue/question. I have been using the Bio Balls for about a month and the only water parameter consistently out of whack (nice technical term eh?) is the Nitrate at 20ppm. <Mmm, typical> Not brutal, but too high for a reef tank. I have read (thoroughly) through this web site and the general consensus is the bio balls have to go. The reason why I used them in first place, are they not an excellent form of gas exchange? <Mmm, can be helpful... though not generally of use for this function. That is to say, there is typically near saturation in captive systems that are "up and going" w/o such media> I reason that all the tank water cascading over them has to be outstanding at oxygenating the water, or is the water crashing down into the sump enough? <The latter... along with the skimmer...> In addition, so far from what I have read a DSB (3+ inches) is the way to go for denitrification, however I have read conflicting reports (not everyone agrees in this hobby, imagine that) that the DSB can have cataclysmic problems as time progresses. <Not likely... especially with your proven good service...> I would think (probably incorrectly) that the best approach to excellent water quality is to remove as much organic matter out of the system as possible, as fast as possible, by whatever means possible before it has time to decay, and to have good gas exchange through water turbulence. <Mmm, a DSB would be an improvement... in water quality, stability, overall vitality> I know you guys know your stuff and you're the only reference I trust. Should I lose the Bio Balls and add the DSB to lower the Nitrate? <Yes, I would> Is my fear of the deep sand unfounded? <Largely yes> Is my overall thesis correct or am I missing the boat big time somewhere? <More correct than missing by far> Lastly. Everything in the tank is happy and healthy, and I have very little nuisance algae growth and great coralline growth. Regards John <Bob Fenner>

Bad experience with PhosGuard - Example of Good Husbandry w/Bioballs 10/12/05 First of all I wanted to say I have found the information on your site to be very informative. Good Job! Anyway, this isn't a question, just wanted to add my recent bad experience with Seachem's PhosGuard to the others I have read on your site. <I see> I had a 75 gallon reef tank that I ran back in the bare bottom tank days from 1989-1995. I gave all of the rock and livestock away and tore down the tank when I got laid off from my job. The tank was stored in my Grandmother's garage. I finally got off my butt and set it up again this July. I really missed it. My 75 Gallon reef has been up for 3 months and my water parameters are very stable so I won't waste space with the details. I majored in Organic Chemistry, <My arms' are starting to ache with memories of Morrison & Boyd's bicep breaker> so I can assure you my params are fine. Although I have a heavy Chemistry background, I ended up an IBM Mainframe Systems Programmer (Dinosaur!). <Could've been pet-fish...> Some tank details: Filtration consists of 140 lbs fine grain Arag-Alive live sand, 120 lbs live rock, Poly-Filters, Miracle Mud hang on refugium w/Chaeto, EV-180 skimmer, Iwaki pumps, RO/DI system for all water that goes in the tank of course. I still use my bio balls and have no plans to remove them for reasons I outline in the last paragraph. Bought some nice cured Kaelini <One of Walt Smith's daughters Fijian names BTW...> live rock from Premium Aquatics and I added a couple of "Detrivore Kits" <Detritivore...> as well for good measure. The tank has never tested positive for NH3 so I guess the sand and rock must have been active since day one. The highest the NO2 ever got during the first 2 weeks was 5ppm. I guess it was from the rock or maybe that is what Carib-Sea puts in the bags to keep the bacteria culture alive. <The rock> 2ppm is the highest NO3 reading I have ever seen which was in the first 2 weeks as the NO2 cycled through. It was less than 0.5 ppm by the 3rd week. So I put in a Centropyge loricula <A fave species, but would wait a few to several months to place dwarf angels> and the Plerogyra sinuosa after 3 weeks and all has gone well since. NO3 has only been trace amounts for the past month (just a slight tinge of purple in the vial viewed from the side). I have seen worms in the sand when viewed from the side since the 3rd week before I even added the Detrivore kits. I use Salifert test kits and really like the Ca and Alk kits as they give precise readings via titration from a syringe instead of counting drops. There are Two 175 6500k Halides, 1 VHO Actinic and 1 VHO 50/.50 in the canopy. I have a solenoid operated water top off system and add Seachem Ca and buffer as needed according to the Salifert test results. Minimal algae blooms, everything is going very well so far. I used Seachem Marine Buffer, Reef Builder and Reef Advantage Calcium with success in the past so I continue to use them now. I only have 3 fish, a Flame Angel, Copperband Butterfly and a Fire Fish all doing well so far. Will add a Mandarin after maybe 6 more months or so, but that is all I plan to have as far as fish go. After all it's only a 75! I am a firm believer in having only a few fish even in my freshwater tanks. I only feed 1 cube of frozen Mysis when I get home from work and another in later in the evening. Unfortunately the butterfly won't even look at anything else, so that's what I've ended up feeding the fish as a staple to avoid polluting the water with uneaten food. Every few days I feed some Mega-Angel for the Flame and to see if the Copperband will try it but no luck so far. It will only go for whole Mysis and ignores anything that isn't a whole shrimp that looks alive. I clean the filter pads every night before going to bed and I do a 6 gallon water change every Wednesday and Saturday. I've been thinking about going to a 3 gallon a day routine instead. I was really into Discus years ago and back then I learned that there is no amount of filtration that can substitute for routine water changes. I did large daily water changes for them which is no big deal in a freshwater tank. I have read that Discus don't appreciate NO3 and so it must be kept to a minimum just like a in a reef tank. The Discus really loved the new water and would usually swim right into the stream from the bucket as I poured it in. <I am in strong agreement with your synopsis> Two weeks ago PO4 was approaching 0.1 ppm so I bought some PhosGuard at the LFS just to insure that PO4 stays low. I rinsed it according to the directions, put it in a filter bag and added it to the chemical chamber in my sump along with the Poly-Filters. After a few days the Pachyclavularia violacea no longer emerged. One of my Actinodiscus Red Mushrooms detached from it's rock and the rest weren't fully extending. The Lavender Rock polyps (they may be a type of Ricordea. I bought Borneman's book and still not really sure what they are, but I've always liked them) started looking sick and one of them detached as well. My Zoanthids quit emerging too. The Plerogyra sinuosa, Goniopora, Carport, a Cauliflower Coral I can't identify and some other type of Tree Coral I can't identify that came on a piece of live rock seem unaffected. The PhosGuard doesn't seem to have affected the Blastomussa Merleti, Xenia or the Crocea Clam either. I've read some things on this site and others about mixing some types of soft and hard corals, but I kept most of these same species together successfully for 6 years in the past and everything has looked healthy this time around until the recent PhosGuard incident. I pulled out the PhosGuard 5 days ago and stuck with my routine 6 gallon Wed/Sat water changes. The organisms that were affected are finally doing better today. <Ah, good> The Pachyclavularia violacea came out for the first time in a week this afternoon. Unfortunately I bought a 1 liter jar of it, so I still have a bunch that I will never use. I ordered some RowaPhos and will give it a try in a week or so as I have read the iron based phosphate removal products are safer to use with the types of organisms I have in my tank. I just want to insure that phosphates stay low. <0.1 ppm should be no problem... phosphate is a "critical compound", needed (in low concentration... though not "free" in solution"...> In my tank at least, it seems that PhosGuard only affected certain types of Cnidarians and very quickly. I am unwilling to continue the experiment by using it long term to see if affects any of my other tank inhabitants. My wife was really upset when it made some of our corals sick. About the bio balls. I still use my Bi-Ox media with 4 air pumps blowing into it and rinse my pre-filters and 100 micron filter pad in the drip tray daily just like I did 10 years ago. The chemist in me refuses to give up the surface area for gas exchange they have. I never had a problem with NO3 back then, so I will continue to use them. I never saw much NO3 after running this setup for 6 years, so I really don't comprehend why people have problems with them. I basically had the same inhabitants/ bio load in the tank that I have now. I just happen to like keeping these particular species since I had good luck with them in the past. When I tore down the tank I didn't find any detritus build up on the Bi-Ox which I assume is due to the daily cleaning of the filter pads. The only thing I am doing different these days is I've added the sand bed, a hang on refugium and a modern, more efficient skimmer than the one that was built into my US Aquarium wet/dry. As I ran this setup a successfully as a bare bottomed tank for years, the only thing I really worry about this time around is that the sand bed will end up packed with detritus and become a NO3 sink and that I will end up having to tear it out. I just don't trust it yet. I spent many sleepless nights debating with myself on whether or not to have a substrate on the bottom or not when I was in planning stages. I hope I don't end up regretting this addition to what was a very successful setup in the past. Bryan <Thank you for sharing. Bob Fenner>

Bio-Ball Removal and the Beginnings of a Reef Tank 10/11/05 I love your site. <Not mine, but I will pass along the kind words. Thank You.> My tank is fallowing now all fish in qtank (Amyloodinium). <Sorry to hear that, nasty disease.> I thought that this might be a good time to remove my bioballs and sump filter pad to reduce my nitrates a bit. <Yes this would be good timing. With the fish out of the tank it will be easier to "adjust" should the tank show any minor adverse effects.> My question is long after I remove the balls should I start to see a drop in nitrate? <Immediately following the removal you may actually see some instability ( a slight rise in ammonia, nitrite or nitrate). I suggest slowly taking the bio-balls out over a week and compensating with extra water changes. Once they are out and the tank is stable you will start too see a slow drop. Of course you'll still have to do regular water changes. Also if the bio-ball removal leaves you with lots of extra room, I would look into a fishless refugium These will help tremendously with nitrate and nutrient control.> I do have about 150 to 200 pound of live rock. <This will help.> I want to keep some corals now and have already order a 320 watt VHO retrofit kit. The nitrates have been as high as 60ppm. <Yes far to high> My purple tip anemone is fine and so are my stars, mushrooms and shrimp... <Keep a close eye on them, I would start performing some large water changes in the meantime.> I am trying to turn a bad thing into something better. <You will succeed just keep researching and be patient.> I will add my fish in 2 more weeks (1 month total). <For Amyloodinium I would go at least 6 weeks to be on the safe side.><<Pay attention to this advice!>> The fish in quarantine are 2 blue damsels <While these are out of the tank you may want to consider omitting them from your future stocking plan due to aggression.> and 1 freckled Hawkfish. Also can you suggest a good hardy coral species to begin with? <Here are a few suitable species keeping in mind there are many more: Mushrooms (Actinodiscus sp. and Rhodactis sp.) Leather Coral (Most of those in the Sarcophyton sp. and Sinularia sp.) Zoanthid Polyps (Zoanthus Sp.) Clove Polyps (Clavularia sp.) Star Polyps (Pachyclavularia sp.) And much More!> Thanks John <No trouble, Adam J.>

Bailing On Bioballs? (Nitrate Reduction) 10/6/05 I have a 54 gallon 3-4 month marine tank with 55 lbs of Fiji live rock. I have 1 maroon clown, 1 Yellow Tang, 4 Eel Gobies, 1 Black Star Damsel and 1 Maroon Clown Fish. All the fish are very small-2-3 inches. I have a wet/dry trickle filter with bioballs. I am using a AquaC Urchin protein skimmer in the sump. I also have 3 powerheads in the tanks and am using a current USA power compact with dual 65 watt bulbs- one full spectrum daylight and 1 blue actinic. I have about 2 inches of crushed coral aragonite as a substrate. Water parameters are Ammonia zero-Nitrite zero-Phosphate zero- calcium 400-ph 8.0 and salinity 30 * Total Nitrate levels are NOW at 80*. <Yikes...> I have easily maintained my Nitrates under 10 with a weekly 3 gallon water change. 2 weeks ago my Phosphate levels were 2.0. I added a phosphate sponge to the trickle filter at that time. This is the only thing different I did to my setup. Within 2 weeks the Phosphate levels dropped to Zero and the Nitrate levels sky rocketed. (Is this coincidence or does this Phosphate pad have something to do with it?) My well water used for water changes has zero phosphate and zero nitrate. <Glad to hear that you have great source water. That's usually one of the leading causes of nitrate and phosphate in closed systems. The phosphate in your system, of course, was coming from somewhere...The most likely source is feeding. It's often a good idea to revisit husbandry practices which could have lead to this problem in the first place. I'm glad the phosphate has been eliminated...Keep up the good work.> I am unsure why my Nitrates were below 10 for 3 months and then skyrocketed in 2 weeks without increasing the bioload. My question is should I remove the bio balls? <I would> Will the live rock and protein skimmer be enough. My thought is that maybe this nitrate build up is from the bio-balls. How about replacing the bio-balls with live rock. Will this prevent nitrate build up that occurs from a bio-ball type filtration system? I do not want to do a Refugium at this time. I will purchase a Nitrate remover if necessary. Thanks, Wayne <Sounds like you're on the right track, Wayne. I'd avoid using a nitrate removing product until you've tried other controls. Do remove the bioballs, as they are extremely efficient removers of ammonia and nitrite, but nitrate tends to accumulate faster than it can be removed in bioball-based systems. Victims of their own success, so to speak! Also, if you are using any mechanical filtration media (such as filter pads, "socks", etc.), be sure to replace/clean them very frequently, as the organic matter and detritus contained within them can degrade water quality. Also, If your intent with the sand bed was to foster denitrification, you probably need to go deeper (3 inches plus). Otherwise, no worry. Just keep up with good husbandry and observation, and you'll be fine! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

How to replace Bio-Balls with live rock 10/5/05 I have a 54 gallon corner tank with a wet/dry filter and a AquaC Urchin protein skimmer in the sump. I have a handful of small damsel size fish and 55 lbs of live rock. The tank is 3-4 months old. I have about 20lbs-2 inches of crushed coral aragonite as a substrate. In the future I would like to low light species of coral. I want to remove the bio-balls and replace with live rock. I read through the archives and have a couple questions. It has been said that when replacing the Bio balls in the sump with live rock that it is better for the live rock to be submerged. The bio balls always had water trickling over them. How do I do this? <Mmm, "back" the water up (volume-wise) in the sump of the wet-dry> Place the rock under the area that holds the bio balls or place the rock where the bio balls were and increase the water level of the tank? <Either one> Also If the live rock is completely submerged, whats the benefit of placing it in the sump as opposed to placing it in the tank. <Just more of it, less predation> I do not see the difference. Should I just leave the bio-ball area of the tank empty? <Could> It was also said to *submerge* the excess Bio balls in the overflow area. The rational was they would still be beneficial and produce less nitrate since they are not directly exposed to air. Would I place these in the over flow of the corner tank. Thanks, Wayne <I would leave these out entirely. Bob Fenner>

Bioballs in sump 9/19/05 Hi! Thanks for all that you do. I have read and learned a lot from your website and from Bob Fenner's book "The Conscientious Marine Aquarist." I have been wanting to upgrade my 40 gallon tank until I saved enough funds. I got lucky enough when the hospital I am working at decided not to keep the 140 gallon tank and gave it to me after one physician backed out. I took everything home for free. The whole set up and everything in it. At first, lost lots of sleep due to planning and anxiety on how to do such a big endeavor (reading all the related articles). With so much gratitude from you guys, (took all the advice I could and planned carefully) I was able to take down the tank from the hospital, hauled it across town to my house set it back up successfully without a single fish dying. It has been 3 weeks since this was done. By the way it took us (three guys and a lady, yours truly) 12 hours from draining the water to setting up and acclimating the fishes. <Congrats on your successful move!> Here are the specs on this tank: 72LX24XH18W with overflow to the sides drilled holes on the bottom of each side of the tank with 3/4" PVC pipes to Iwaki 55RLT magnet pump to a 30 gallon sump with two towers (one tower with bio-balls, the other with some kind of square same principle connect the square )back to the tank with a spray bar across the top. Livestock includes the following: one small yellow tail damsel one small tomato clown, one medium tomato clown one medium cinnamon clownfish(2 to 3 inches) one large maroon clownfish (4 to 5 inches) two small orange skunks one large blue tang (4 to 5 inches) one small flame angel one medium coral beauty one small cleaner shrimp one large toadstool leather one large hammer coral one small bubble coral numerous scattered mushrooms cabbage leather corals Condy 3 sea urchins one large brittle star 4 0r 5 snails (cerith) water parameters: (Aquarium Pharmaceuticals, Inc test kit) pH 8.2 nitrite 0 ammonia 0 nitrate 5 to 10 sp.grav. 1.023-1.024 salinity 32 temperature 78 to 82 <I would suggest raising the SG up to 1.025-1.026 and monitoring Alkalinity and Calcium.> lights include 4 65 watt 10K straight pins over 200 lbs of live rock. No substrate. <This isn't very much light for the depth of the tank. It may maintain the animals you have but will limit future choices.> I recently added an Aqua C Remora Pro with a mag 3. I am so impressed that it produced dark skim mates after 12 hours (overnight) right away. <This skimmer is excellent, although a bit small for the size of the tank and bioload. No need to run out and upgrade, but beware of the limitations.> I have been doing Kalkwasser drip every night (being a nurse helps a lot I am using a DIY IVF (intravenous fluid) bag with IV tubing that has a regulator clamp and can count drops per ml per min. This is intended of course for the coralline algae growth. It did not have much when I got the tank. Now, it is flourishing with it. I know I still yet to measure the calcium level). <Ahhh, yes! Being a perfusionist, I have the same benefit of access to such helpful devices (legitimately obtained of course!). Please do check that Ca and Alk!> I apologize for the lengthy introduction. My question is how do I get rid or do I have to get rid of the bioballs to avoid nitrate spikes? By the way this tank as I was told is as old as 10 years. I have started taking some of the bioballs. How about the other kind? <It isn't spikes, but rather the continual rise in nitrate that is the issue. I would remove a small portion (20% or so) of this media per week until it is gone. Keep an eye on Ammonia and Nitrite to be sure that the live rock is kicking in.> I would like to set up a refugium as well. Again, been reading a lot about it and researching. With the current set up I have, the sump is water only with the intake all the way down to the bottom and tends to suck up everything in its path. I appreciate any advise you could offer me. Thanks a lot. PinayRNinKS. <Once emptied of bioballs, wet/dry filters often make very good refugia. All that is required is some calcareous sand, an inexpensive light and some macroalgae borrowed from a fellow aquarist. Some minor modifications to the sump may also be desirable. Anthony Calfo and Bob Fenner's "Invertebrates" book contains some great info on refugium design. Best regards. AdamC.>

Bio Balls in Wet/Dry filter 8/31/05 Hi guys. I want to say thanks for all the free advice you've given me over the last few weeks. I am a new aquarist and your site has been a godsend. I have another silly question. I'm having a problem with him nitrates (around 50ppm). <Too high> I have a 55 gal tank with about 45lbs of live rock in it. I also have a protein skimmer attached. My sump also has Bio balls in it. I was told by another hobbyist that removing my bio balls might help decrease my nitrate level. Is that true? <Yes...> If I do remove the bio balls do I have to replace it with anything since I already have live rock in the display tank? <There are some options here. Please read: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm and the linked files above> Also, do you recommend that I add activated carbon to the sump? If so, how often should it be replaced? <Please... learn to/use the search tool, indices on WWM...> How much carbon should I add to a tank this size? I know I'm asking a lot of questions but I'll appreciate any help I can get. Thanks again. <This and related, important/useful material is posted on WWM. Bob Fenner>

Substrate and Bioballs 8/19/05 Hi, I have a few questions. First, I've read on your site that crushed marble is not a good choice as a substrate, what is the actual difference between marble and crushed coral that makes marble a bad choice? <Well, to be very general, crushed coral tends to dissolve easier in the higher ph of a marine tank, and provides some buffering and dissolved mineral content. Marble tends to dissolve much slower.> And does that matter if I'm only using the marble as a one inch substrate for looks only? <You could, but both of these materials are generally found in very course grades, and coarse substrates require a great deal of attention, even at shallow depths, as they will tend to trap detritus. Accumulated detritus can lower water quality and lead to outbreaks of nuisance algae. If you are intending to maintain a sandbed of any depth, I'd tend to prefer a very fine substrate, like the oolithic aragonite materials in the "sugar fine" grades.> Also, I'm changing the main filtration on my tank from a penguin BioWheel with ceramic noodles to a sump with bioballs. Most of the advice on your site says to use live rock and a deep sand bed instead of bioballs because of the nitrate factor. But I don't have room for a deep sand bed, and as far as I know the penguin/noodle combo produces lots of nitrates too but I was able to keep my nitrates at zero by using a zeolite (I think) type medium that has the right size pores for anaerobic bacteria to live in. By my thinking, if I was controlling the nitrates before then switching to bioballs shouldn't make a big difference - is that right? <Well, bioballs offer a huge surface area for bacteria to colonize on. Possibly even more surface area than the ceramic noodles. Either material is excellent at reducing ammonia and nitrite, but both become "victims of their own success", removing ammonia and nitrite, while accumulating nitrate. Perhaps you could utilize a deep sand bed in your sump. Or, you may want to experiment with a very good protein skimmer and your aforementioned shallow sand bed in the display. Many aquarists are successfully forgoing sand beds altogether. More than one way to run a system out there...> Finally, as I said I'm going to take out the BioWheel so I was planning on running the BioWheel and bioballs together for a few months before taking out the wheel. Given that the it has been the main filtration for two years or so, do you think taking out the BioWheel suddenly will cause a problem? <May not cause a problem, but the phasing out of a very efficient biofilter for a new one is always potentially tricky. Be sure to phase out the old system slowly, and monitor water quality along the way.> Thanks for your help. <My pleasure. Regards, Scott F.>

Bioballs And Live Rock...But No Info - 08/11/05 I am replacing bio balls with live rock should it be submerged or trickled on? <<You don't give any supporting info to go on...but as a rule...submerged. EricR>> Bioballs vs. Live Rock - 07/13/05 Dear All; <<Greetings>> Thanks for the great site! It has been a truly valuable source for me. I am new to marine aquaria, but I have had fresh water systems for many many years. It has been somewhat difficult making the transition, if not for your site it would have been an even more daunting task. <<"Thanks" from the crew...gratifying to know.>> I have been reading on WWM about the use of bioballs in a reef tank. The general opinion seems to be that they should be avoided and the use of just live rock/sand bed in a refugium should be implemented. <<Agreed>> However, I have not read a sound, convincing argument about why bioballs act as "nitrate factory" and live rock does not. <<Really?>> Could someone offer a concise self-contained sound argument. <<Not asking for much, eh? <G> >> If a system has both live rock and bioballs then how does having the bioballs convert ammonia eventually to nitrates differ from the live rock doing the work? <<Ok let's see...concise...hmm... The process is essentially the same for converting ammonia to nitrite to nitrate whether it's done by the bioballs or the live rock, as you have already surmised. The difference comes after the conversion of nitrite to nitrate... The pore structure of the live rock (or the grain-size/depth of a sand bed) creates anoxic zones; not commonly associated with bioballs, that foster bacteria which can/will process nitrates converting them to nitrogen, which is then liberated from the tank as the bubbles you see rising from the rock/sand bed. The bioball/wet-dry filters are referred to as nitrate factories because their end product is just that...nitrate...and they are so efficient at it even when used in conjunction with live rock they can overwhelm the live rock's ability to convert same to nitrogen. Thus, most prefer to exclude bioballs from reef systems...though they can be quite handy for dealing with large/fluctuating bioloads in FO/FOWLR systems that can handle a higher nitrate load.>> Your time is sincerely appreciated. -Kenny <<Regards, Eric R.>>

Ceramic Beads, Denitrification, Editing 7/9/05 Bob, <Joe> In your recent daily FAQ, you wrote: "Well-made sintered glass or ceramic "beads", rings... actually are useful for anaerobic processing of nitrates... denitrification... the opposite, if you will, of the reaction series of bio-balls" My question is: WHY? It confuses me, because I would have thought that the oxygenation of the water, and not the physical nature of the media, would have been the deciding factor of the presence of denitrifying anaerobes. I did spend some time hunting WWM, so if you happen to know where this answer is, do you have a pointer? <... Mmmm, this the nature of the size of the pores, porosity... with little to no (hypoxic to anoxic) conditions in the teeny tiny spaces in this media, anaerobes are able to proliferate...> Now, on to editing, on this page... http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm ... you have a great big bold header reading "How Do It Know". I think it's supposed to read "How Do I Know". <A take off on "how it's s'posed to be"> Near the end of the article, you write... "...with nitrate being converted back to nitrate, then nitrite, ammonia and finally nitrogen gas." I'm pretty sure you didn't mean "nitrate being converted back to nitrate", unless I'm simply a Dum Dum, which has occasionally been known to be true. :) <No... tis an error. Will fix. BobF> Joe Kraska

Bio Balls 7/7/05 Hello, <Hi there> I've been reading some more, I think I'm up to 2% total info, and came across the bio balls FAQs. So bio balls aren't the crew's favorite. I have a 20g acrylic tank with built in overflow (room for a sponge and media where I've placed a mesh bag with carbon) and bio ball chamber. The tank was almost new when it was given to me and came with a protein skimmer that could fit in the bio ball chamber and, I believe, replace them. <Mmm, different function... but, as you'll know, these "built in" skimmers are feeble> Have you seen this type of system before, I'm sure you have, can you explain it to me or point me to some examples? <Keep reading... on WWM...> I've tried to find something similar and haven't had any luck. My tank is FO no LR, so I should use bio balls, correct? <You can> Would I be able to use the protein skimmer and move some of the balls into the overflow chamber (they would then be underwater)? <Sure> Also, as long as I'm writing, I'm thinking about stocking the tank with a firefish goby, Randall's goby, and a tiger pistol shrimp (the bottom is 2" sand). Any problems with this? <Better to leave off with microdesmids in such a tiny volume> Thank you for your great help again! JPV <Enjoy the learning process. Bob Fenner>

Bio Media Hello. <Good day> This is truly the best site ever! <Thank you> But I have been reading the FAQs and got a little confused. You had stated to keep the biological filtration simple and natural and let the LR and SB do the work. So I am wondering why the need for biomedia, is it even needed? <With enough live rock, it is not needed.> I am starting up a reef only system [low-light corals & maybe some crabs or clown later on] with the filtration being in the hood. The hood is divided into 4 sections, from left to right: 1-pump 2-filter media 3-filer media 4-return. The pump brings the water up into the hood and shoots it into a rod with holes [pointed down] that allows it to drip down into the filter media sections. There is a pathway underneath the filter media sections that allows the water to flow over to the fourth section and return to the tank. It is a 45-gallon tank with 42lbs LR and 40lbs of Fiji Arag sand. Besides putting the basic filter pad and carbon in sections 2 and 3 respectively, I was also going to add some BioMax rings [would you suggest anything else?] in section 2 and leave section 3 for any additional filter media needed in the future [phosphate media]. Are the BioMax rings needed and do they need to be submerged in the water? <With live rock, they will not be needed, and yes, you can use the extra compartments for needed media if the need arises.> If they need to be submerged, I could put the rings in section 4, in which the water will have to flow up in order to flow into the return pipe. Or would I implement both? In my last system, I had a drip tray which dripped into a compartment with bioballs [not submerged] and below that another compartment with another set of bioballs [submerged] then onto the sump. Another thing that confused me was the removal of phosphate. I figured with a reef tank, the lights will have to be on longer and thus a greater chance for algae to grow. I usually buy my RO water from the LFS. Since I wont have any fish [in the beginning], the only nutrient I can see causing algae growth would be phosphate. But I read on this site that phosphate is an essential nutrient as well. So do I just keep this down to a minimum? I'll have a protein skimmer on the tank as well. I will be also dripping Kalkwasser calcium [at night] and measuring Nitrate/Alkalinity/Calcium and Phosphate. I'll make sure there is enough competition for the light and might get some hermit crabs. I don't suspect I will have to do frequent water changes with no fish. <Inverts benefit from frequent water changes as well. You will be replacing essential trace elements that have been absorbed by the inverts. A 10% weekly water change is recommended. This also removes nutrients, etc, by dilution. As long as frequent water changes are maintained and the tank not overstocked, you should not have phosphate/nitrate levels that would be high enough to cause problems.> Thanks in advance! <You're welcome. James (Salty Dog)>

Plumbing and Stuff Hey crew, My brother is on his way up from Southern Cali bringing me my brand new 135G glass tank. 72"X18"X24". I am gonna make it a FOWLR predator tank: 200 lbs. of Florida crushed coral substrate, is that too much? <Try it and see... should be thin or rather deep... see WWM re> 80 lbs. of Caribbean Live Rock from Drs. F&S Home made 40G sump w/balls EV180 w/ Mag 7 Soooo, I was planning on using a Gen-X PCX-40 rated at 1190GPH w/22' max head for the return pump. I will only be at about 5' of head. I contacted the company who I bought the tank from and they said the bottom pane is tempered and the sides aren't. The tank is a complete virgin with no holes. I know it is a no no to drill tempered but, is it impossible for even the pros to do? <Can be done> Someone like Custom Glass? <Or other glass companies around you... call them re> If so, I will then have to go through the side. I can only have one overflow because of where the tank is being placed, so by going through the bottom back of the tank, what size bulkhead would you use? I was thinking about 2". <Should work... if placed low enough... when/where in doubt, make it larger... can be regulated on the discharge side> It sounds excessive, but it has to go directly into a 90 degree elbow. Do you see any problem with that size because of the elbow? <Will slow down flow a bit... I encourage you to use a Tee instead... for venting, noise reduction... read on WWM re> Also it will then have to Y off to go into two separate chambers of balls. I read over the faq's on plumbing and got a lot of mixed opinions. <Then... keep reading till you have your own ideas of how to proceed> I just don't want to have the wrong size hole drilled. Now to my DIY sump. I might have a good idea. It's a 40G three foot tank. I want to use two five gallon buckets filled with bio balls. It seems like a lot but the fish are big and messy. My main concern is keeping the nitrates as low as possible between the faithful bi-weekly water changes. <Skip the wet-dry media (balls) if you want to avoid nitrate bottle necking> Most wet/dry's with 4 gallons of media say they're good for 150G. So by having two going, when the nitrates got too high, I could pull one bucket and clean em up while the other 5 gallons are still holding the bio load. What do you think? <Won't work... but go ahead and try this... you can always pull them> Finally, I would like to try out UGJ.(under gravel jets) Have you heard of anyone using this idea on a s/w tank? <Yes> I got the idea from http://www.vatoelvis.com/135g.php. He uses it for cichlids, but I like the idea. Maybe it would help with circulation at least? <Maybe> Well, as usual, I'm up at 3:00 a.m., searching the site, and the rest of the web, for anything new I have not seen yet. Thanks for the reply whenever you get the time. The site is wonderful, and I'm looking forward to some new books from you guys. Thanks, Mike <Keep reading and keeping good notes Mike... you'll do fine. Bob Fenner>

Needed advice for a Newbie Saltwater convert, use WWM Hi guys, this is a quick PS to my previous note. Since my aquarium hasn't started yet would it require less ongoing maintenance if I used live rock for my fish only tank instead of bio balls. <Yes> I just found that my wet/dry could hold my skimmer if I replace my Bio balls with my skimmer and leave the sump "empty). My sump has a bulk head attached to a pump. Could this work? What should I be aware of?. What's the best and most economical way to get Live Rock do biological filtration. Thanks again! <All... this... is... posted... on... WWM... go there. Bob Fenner>

Bioballs or Refugium? I am getting ready to set up a 125 All Glass reef ready tank. I purchased a Pro Clear 150 wet/dry with built in protein skimmer. (2) Maxi Jet 900 powerheads and (2) Maxi Jet 1200 powerheads. Waiting for 200 lbs of live rock and 200 lbs of aragonite/live sand to arrive. Will be using (2) 175W 10,000K, (1) 175W 12,000K metal halide, (2) 96W blue actinic and 4 lunars for lighting. Now what do I do about the bio balls, use them or don't use them? < I wouldn't use them. Pull them out if you ask me. > If I don't use bio balls then how do I set the sump up? < As a refugium. I would have recommended looking into this before making that purchase. But since you already have it, I'd search online for refugium set up designs and ideas. > One of your crew members recommends live rock in the sump and one recommends live rock only in the display aquarium. If live rock goes in the sump then what lighting is required? < Oh I think live rock in the sump is a must. It is a great way to go, especially with a tank that size. You don't need lights on the sump, but it can really help. Most people use cheap lights from Home Depot or old aquarium lights. I'm sure if you go to www.utahreefs.com/forum and search for refugium or refugium light you will find tons of info. Please read up before setting up this aquarium. > Please help! Thanks, Angela < Blundell >

Bio-balls Thu, 3 Feb 2005 Hello again!! I have now upgraded from a 10 gallon (I know, I know, bad idea), to a larger 55 gallon tank. I'm very excited about finally having a nice sized aquarium!!! I have my sump built, overflow, prefilter, built. My question is in regards to your personal opinion of Bioballs. I have read multiple inputs from you guys, saying, "take em out". Are you saying to place them in the sump for a while, then take them out, or completely eliminate having them in the first place?<That all depends. If you have healthy live rock (1 1/2 lbs per gallon), then that serves as your bio filter. Without it, you will need some place for the bacteria to grow on, such as bio balls.> I guess I'm just misunderstanding what y'all are saying. Thanks for your help!!! OH, BTW, your website has helped me immensely with my success in aquaria!!! Thanks again!!! <Your welcome. James (Salty Dog)> Ross

Re: Stocking Question, actually no... bio-balls, wet-dry
If I remove the bio-ball chamber, will there be enough good bacteria in the rest of the system to keep everything at the right levels? <Patrice, you didn't mention whether you have live rock or not. Without live rock, I wouldn't remove the bio balls. If you have about 100 lbs of live rock you could remove 25% of the balls per week. James (Salty Dog)> Patrice

Re: Bioballs and Protein Skimmer, nitrates Thanks for your advice Bob, <Just stating what I might do> I just bought a Remora pro skimmer with the Mag 3 pump from MarineDepot. Hope this is better then the Prizm. <Yes... you will soon see, realize.> I assume I should also remove the bio-balls slowly. Should I remove 1/4 every week? I'll going to start doing it once the skimmer comes in. <A good plan. Bob Fenner> Thanks again, Neil -

Bioballs and Nitrates - Hello WWM Crew, I just recently got into saltwater fish about a year ago. I've had a lot of success with Freshwater for about 11 years and now wanted to move on to more exotic fish. I've been a big fan of your website since I've gone to saltwater, which I've gotten great advice, but I'm a little confused. First here is my specs on my FOWLR tank: -90 gallons 60x18x20 acrylic -Over 90lbs of Live rock, mostly Fiji some Marshall -1-2 inch of crush coral on the bottom of tank -15 gallon sump with bio balls -Prizm Protein skimmer hanging from sump, want to change to Remora pro -UV sterilizer Sealife 9watt - ph @ 8.3 - salinity @ 1.022 - nitrates fluctuate between 20-40 Livestock: -3" Porcupine puffer -1.5" Niger trigger -2.5" yellow tang -3.5" blue tang, king of the tank -1.5" Kole tang -1" clown fish, Nemo -.5" damsel, can't catch him -.5" Vlamingi tang, will give him up once he gets too big for tank I feed them flakes twice a day (formula 2 and Nutri max), feed them frozen shrimp, nor, and assorted formula cubes (3) once every week. So far they look healthy and get along. The tank has been up for almost 11 months now and all the fish hiding places due to the live rock set-up. Luckily I haven't lost any fish, yet. I routinely change 15 gallons of water every two weeks from LFS. Now here is my Questions: 1. Is it a good idea to remove bio balls since nitrates are slowly creeping up or is it more beneficial to keep them? <Well... in the long haul, you'll be better off without them, but you'll need to remove them slowly.> LFS advises me to keep them in. 3. Will pulling out the Bio-balls make the protein skimmer work more efficiently? <Doubt it.> Currently the water hits the bio balls then goes to skimmer. if so: 2. Will getting a better Skimmer make a big difference, like aqua c remora pro, because right now my skimmer does pull out gunk. <Perhaps... the Prizm is somewhat undersized for this job.> But not a 1/2 cup everyday. <There are no absolutes in this department. It is quite possible that even with a Remora Pro you won't get that much effluent from your skimmer.> Currently nitrates are ranging between 20-40 ppm. Last test getting closer to 40. Any help with these questions would be appreciated. <Consider upping either the size or frequency of your water changes.> Neilio in the Bay Area <Cheers, J -- >

Removing Mechanical Filtration I have been having some issues with algae growing on my sand and needing to be cleaned off the glass every few days, as well as off my pre-filter weekly. I use RODI water, do water changes every other week and also use an ozone-injected skimmer. I believe I have traced the issue back to the fact I am using a pre-filter sponge, blue/white floss pad, bio balls, and sump sponge. <Very likely your culprits!> When I wring out the floss and sponges every other day it gets better. From what I have read on RC it would be best to slowly remove my bio balls and ditch the filter media. <I agree...> If I do this I don't understand what will filter out all the crud that these things catch today? From what I read the live rock and live sand. <Well, bioballs are really designed to harbor nitrifying bacteria, and are not really intended to be a mechanical filtration media! Live sand and rock help fulfill a similar role in a "Berlin" system. They provide more complete biological filtration. You can still use some mechanical media, such as a prefilter pad or "micron filter sock" in or near your sump. However, to keep the same problem from happening, you need to clean/replace them very frequently-like every other day, IMO> I just don't see how these will filter out all the crud I see stir up in my sump when I pull the sump sponge out to wring it out?? Should I keep a sponge on my hang on pre-filter? <Well, depending upon the design of the prefilter, you may have no other choice. As an alternative, you can let the detritus settle in your sump and siphon it out frequently.> I'm thinking of ditching the wet/dry and picking up a Berlin. <Well, if you '86 the bioballs and let the live rock and sand do the biological filtration, and use a good skimmer, you're essentially utilizing the "Berlin" method.> Don't really want to mess with a refugium at this point. Berlins incorporate a sock filter and a small sponge. Will I have the same issue with these? Thanks in advance! <If you allow detritus to accumulate and don't clean these media frequently, you will definitely have the same issue! Just pay a little extra attention to cleaning any mechanical media that you use on a very frequent basis, and you should be okay. Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Bioballs Hello WWM crew, <Hi Chris, MacL here> I have been looking at your info on Bio-Balls.. I have a basic set up, that I have put together from reading many marine books, like BAENSCH vol 1 & WATER CHEMISTRY by John H. Tullock, plus I surf Garf & WWM Since I have been on your site I have come across many articles on getting rid of the Bio-Balls. My Nitrate level is -0 to 10mg/L and have not had a problem with nitrates before, I do water changes every 2 weeks (20ltsof a 500lt tank). Can you please tell me why I would take out my bio-balls. <Many people do have problems with their nitrates when they use bioballs and that's why lots of people advocate removing them. I personally still run a wet/dry sump on my tank with bioballs and it works great but I take care of my nitrates with a high level of live rock and with a refugium designed specifically to handle nitrates.> I also have a Via Aqua 750 Pro canister filter running from the trickle W/D sump. I placed it onto the new set up about 6 mths ago from a 1year old mini reef tank. I did this to speed up and help along the ageing process, I have not cleaned it for at least 1yr now, should I let it continue or clean it, or take it away. <If you haven't cleaned it in that long it probably really needs cleaning but beware because you will disturb the bacteria bed built up in the canister.> I have placed on a attachment with my tank specs . Ta Chris

Bailing Out The Bioballs! (Getting Rid of Plastic Filtration Media) Hello WWM Crew, <Hi there! Scott F. here tonight> I have been looking at your info on Bio-Balls.. I have a basic set up, that I have put together from reading many marine books, like BAENSCH vol 1 & WATER CHEMISTRY by John H. Tullock, plus I surf Garf & WWM <Al great sources!> Since I have been on your site I have come across many articles on getting rid of the Bio-Balls. My Nitrate level is -0 to 10mg/L and have not had a problem with nitrates before, I do water changes every 2 weeks (20ltsof a 500lt tank). <Great!> Can you please tell me why I would take out my bio-balls. <In many systems, bioballs can do the trick in providing excellent breakdown of noxious organic compounds (i.e.; ammonia and nitrite). Bioballs are enormously effective at breaking down these compounds so fast that the population of bacteria which break down nitrate (the "end product" of the biological filtration process) cannot keep up, and over time, nitrate begins to accumulate. Victims of their own success! While not in and of itself "bad", nitrate levels are a sort of "yardstick" to assess overall water quality. Accumulations of low levels of nitrate (even up to 20+ ppm) are acceptable with fish only systems. However, many delicate corals and invertebrates will simply not do as well with these levels. By removing bioballs and placing greater emphasis on the more complete biological filtration occurring in live rock and sand, you're simply letting nature do even more of the work...It's really as simple as that, IMO. In the long run, you'll have more stable low levels-perhaps even undetectable levels- of nitrate in your system, assuming other natural mechanisms are in place> I also have a Via Aqua 750 Pro canister filter running from the trickle W/D sump. I placed it onto the new set up about 6 mths ago from a 1year old mini reef tank. I did this to speed up and help along the aging process, I have not cleaned it for at least 1yr now, should I let it continue or clean it, or take it away. I have placed on a attachment with my tank specs . Ta Chris <I would make it a habit to regularly clean and/or replace mechanical filtration media. These can become saturated with detritus, which can act as a real "nitrate factory", working against your goal of high water quality...That's my take on it. Overall, your system sounds great-parameters look good. My thinking is that they can be even better if you embrace some more "natural" filtration techniques...Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Sump and bioballs Once again I would like to thank all the great people at WetWebMedia for the great advice and wonderful website. I have been reading a lot on your site about Bio-Ball and have come to the conclusion that I would like to get rid of mine. I have a 55G tank that has about 60 lbs. of LR and a 3" live sand bed. My water levels look great but as the standard bio-ball role my nitrates are rising and making my anemones and polyps look very bad. I have been using Reef Vital DNA and that has seemed to turn my anemones around to where they are getting their color back and opening up a bit more. I have a medium sized Maroon Clown, 2 Percula Clowns, and a Royal Gramma in my tank. I have a lot of hermits and snails in the tank also with a lot of brittle stars living in the LR with a really huge Red Brittle that roams around my tank. I want to add a few more fish to me and more coral but not until I remove the Nitrate factory from my setup. I was wondering if I could put crushed coral into my sump to replace the bio-balls. << Sure. This is how many sumps and refugia started, was by people converting over their bio-balls. I like this idea and would fill it about 4 inches deep with crushed coral. >> The crushed coral would be totally submerged in the sump. Please advice on what would be a good think to replace the balls with. The full listing of my tank are as follows: Custom made stand and canopy PC retrofit in the canopy with 2 65W 10K and 2 65W actinic Pentair Quiet One 6000 (return pump) AquaClear 125 Sump AquaC EV-120 skimmer with Mag 5 pump 60lbs Live Rock 3" Live sand bed 55G glass tank SWCD tied into return to custom made return tubes in tank I have attached a picture so that you can see what my sump basically looks like. The only difference between the sumps is the marked area is not present in mine. Though that separator could be added into mine. << I think seeing other sumps of friends may help. Always best to know what you want before you start making it. That can save some future headaches. Good Luck. Blundell >>

BIOBALLS & NITRATES Hi Bob, <Hey Patrick, MacL here, nice to meet you> First time writing in, but have spent a wealth of time reading your site. One of the best I have to add. <Glad to hear you think that.> My questions are within some grey areas within types of tanks being kept and methods associated to keep parameters in check. I am running a 230gal tank with an AMiracle 400 wet/dry filter. The filter is setup with (2) chambers filled with bioballs, drip pads and foam block in bottom of sump. I also change out every now and again (2) units of Chemi-pure. I am using a fairly large ETS skimmer that is getting supplied water from the filter sump. The skimmer is powered by an Iwaki 40 pump. The main filter is powered by an Iwaki 70 pump. This pump returns are T'd - off into (2) returns where (1) return is going through a Ultra Violet light then to the main tank. I have approx. 150lbs of Fiji live rock, all from the same pet shop. Anyway.. I have kept mostly just fish. I am now getting into some of the more hardier soft corals. <Some of the fish you have might make soft corals a snack.> My lighting consists of (1) 48" inch Triton, and (1) 48" actinic 03 along with a home made lighting canopy that uses small halogen spots (8) 35 watt heads. I like the dark/light effect as in a real ocean I get from this. Anyway, I have in transit a Coralife 48" compact 260 watt light on the way, since I have been keeping more corals. Now that we are on the same page, I am aware of most of the arguments for using, not using bioballs, and the different types of refuges people like to use. <I'm familiar with them. You should know that I have a tank with a wet/dry on it and I do very much like that system.> I do tons of research before trying anything you can't just go with what you're told by manufactures or LFS. Anyway, I am planning to add a 20gal refugium with mud and live sand. This is going to be used to grow macroalgae for nutrient export. <Also works very well for nutrient export.> I do 1-2 (Rubbermaid) large garbage can water change every 1-2 weeks. I do sometimes have problems with diatom blooms, but really don't have any other problems with algae. I currently stock the tank with: (1) 7" Queen Angel adult (1) 5-6" Sohal Tang (1) 7" Blonde Naso Tang (1) 4" Passer Angel (1) 2-3" Spotted/Saddle Puffer (1) 3" Yellow Tang (1) 2-3" Juv.. French Angel (2) 2-3" Hippo Tangs (7-8) Assorted Damsels (2) false Percula clowns (1) Maroon Clown (1) Skunk Clown (1) Firefish (1) Pink Anthias (1) Medium Colt Coral (1) Medium toadstool leather (3) types of mushrooms (1) small leather type (not sure of name for this coral) (1) anemone type soft coral Cleaners are: (1) large cleaner shrimp (5-10) snails (5-10) assorted hermits (2) Algae Blennies I manually add Coral Vital as directed, Reef Complete every other day or as needed, and the (2) part bionic Calcium when needed. I stopped using Trace Elements since I was doing such frequent water changes. <Get it in the salt. I understand.> Here are my questions: I plan on getting rid of at least (1) chamber of bioballs to cut the nitrate factory production in half. <Interesting idea.> I plan to add live rock to this chamber instead. <Do you plan to keep the chamber totally filled with water? Other wise you could have problems with the live rock essentially dying. Might be better to just empty the chamber> I also plan on removing the drip pads which get cleaned weekly (usually very dirty). <Very dirty might indicated overfeeding, which can be a big problem with fish only tanks.> With the addition of the refuge and amount of Live Rock (also use 2-4" live sand bed in main tank) being used, do you see any problems with this setup for keeping more corals? <Only the fish you are keeping. I can see the angels chowing down, eating everything you put in.> I cannot seem to get my nitrates down below 30-40ppm, but I am hoping with the refuge and removing bioballs this will help. <I'm wondering about how much you feed. Perhaps feeding every other day might help the problem substantially. This is the voice of experience here, I chronically over feed and have learned to not feed on weekends because of this.> My thought process is that if I keep 1 chamber with bioballs given their problems, the refuge and LR would deal with the Nitrates and I would still benefit from the advantage of the bioballs since I am stocking many fish as well? I am also not sure if any of the additives used are causing false readings for nitrate. <Not likely.> I do add, Selcon and Garlic Xtreme to food periodically as well. <Love both products.> Do you think the refuge along with the LR will be enough to handle the bio-load and will lower the tank of nitrates? <Depends on what you put in the refugium. If you cut back on feeding, how fast the water flow is through the refugium.> On another topic, after adding coral vital, I can't seem to get the kind of Coralline Algae growth I am looking for. This tank has been set up for 3 years, but has gone through a few transitions, once was used for sharks. My calcium is kept around 400-450. <What about your magnesium and alkalinity levels? Your ph?> I did not see any Coralline grow when I had just fish, and the coralline that was present on the rock died off. I have since added more LR and I am able to keep coralline and do see some new growth, however it does not seem to grow as quickly as I would expect. Do you have any suggestions? <Coralline growth is a balancing act. Check the levels and make adjustments as necessary. Sounds like you are on the right path.> I don't use RO water, I have very good well water (had tested Professionally) nothing alarming about the well water outside of nitrates (present but low) Lastly, my only source of circulation are the (2) filter returns. <Perhaps more circulation, the tangs need oxygen saturation levels that are high, right now the wet/dry is taking care of that for you but should you remove the bioballs this will change.> These do push the water around a lot in the tank, lots of coral movement. I do move the returns angle to change things up. I plan on adding (2) sea swirls. Do you think I need more water circulation? <I really think when you change things you will need to need to add more circulation.> My future plans for this tank is to have more corals with maybe a few more mid to small size fish. <Changing the fish will make a difference.> My plans for filtration are to have a half of chamber of bio ball/half with LR and a 20gal refuge. <Sounds interesting.> Well, thanks for taking this email. I understand you must get many, so if I don't hear from you anytime soon I would understand, but I would greatly appreciate your opinions. Thanks Patrick <I hope this helps you, I think you are on the right path for what you want. Its always good to do the research and figure out exactly what you want. MacL> Bioballs- Wet or Dry? G'DAY mate, <Hiya! Scott F. here today!> Have a question about filtration. I have a mini reef filter with bio-balls. I run the sump with SIX cm. water level in the sump. I saw the same set up today, running with TWENTY cm. of water in the sump. This meant that the bio-balls are covered in water about half of them. I have been told in the past never to let bio-balls be covered in water. What are views on the above? <Well, frankly, if you are looking for the bioballs to "function" at maximum efficiency, fostering nitrifying bacteria, then you'd want to keep them out of the water, and simply run the water over them (i.e.; the "trickle filter" concept!). That's my take on this issue.> My filter sump will allow me to add a lot more water if I have to. Thanks mate for your past info it was very valuable like it always has been. ta CHRIS (from oz) <Well, Chris- if it were me, I'd just forgo bioballs altogether, and let the live rock and sand in my system do the "filtration". Run more water in the sump, as it will help add to your total system volume, and allow you to run some bags of chemical media, such as activated carbon and/or PolyFilter on a "passive" basis. Also, the higher water level will give you room to grow some macroalgae in a lighted section of the sump, if you desire. For that matter, a deeper, consistent water level will make an in-sump protein skimmer operate more efficiently, too. Hope these insights are of use to you! Regards, Scott F>

Marine filtration G'DAY mate, <Howdy Chris> Have a question about filtration. I have a minim reef filter with bio-balls, I run the sump with SIX cm water level in the sump. I saw the same set up today, running with TWENTY cm of water in the sump. <If the bio balls are run as a wet/dry then they would need to have the water running through them and basically being wet/dry. This allows for more oxygen exchange.> This meant that the bio-balls are covered in water about half of them. <Some people run them totally in the water for the bacteria that can build up on them and are using them to hold the bacteria. But it doesn't allow for the oxygen exchange that the dripping through allows.> I have been told in the past never to let bio-balls be covered in water. What are views on the above. My filter sump will allow me to add a lot more water if i have to. Thanks mate for your past info it was very valuable like it always has been. ta CHRIS (from oz) <hope this helped, MacL>

Bye-Bye, Bioballs! Hi Scott, Bob and all of you good people <Scott F. back with you today!> Just a quickie if that ok, <Of course!> I have double drilled tank. Both go into one sump and tank is mainly fish only at the moment. My sump is 30g under tank and presently has a Aqua-Medic reef 5000 setup. This is :- flow from tank to pre-filter- to Turboflotor skimmer - to bio balls Question 1) Can I simply replace the bioballs with live rock? <I would place the live rock in the "wet" section of the sump> Although the tank is mainly fish only medium/heavy load. The other flow from the tank goes straight into home made wet/dry filter. Can I replace this with live rock? <Yep> The sump has no lighting.......will this affect the live rock at all? <Well, you'll probably lose some of the photosynthetic animals, but the more "cryptic" life forms will thrive> Thanks all you great guys &Gals over there for all your help & support. Simon. <Our pleasure, Simon! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

Live rock as filter material. Hi again crew, Just a quick question regarding the use of live rock as a replacement for my bioballs in my trickle filter....If I do this, will I have to light the sump?<I would but I do not believe that it is absolutely necessary> At the moment the sump is in almost total darkness. If I light it too much, I may have problems with my two skimmers getting fouled up, would I not?<Maybe, I have not lighted my sump with liverock so I have not experienced this> Cheers Simon... UK <IanB>

Live Rock Rubble Hello again guys, <Hello! Ryan with you> Another LR in sump question for you. <OK> I am getting ready to add some more LR to my 90 and 55 gal. reef tanks. I have a little LR in my sump on the 90 and none in the 55 gal. sump. I still have about 1/3 of the bioballs in the wet/dry area of the 55. I'm going to try and add a few pieces of LR and remove the rest. <Great, do it a little bit each day> Maybe throw the remaining in the overflow for awhile. I noticed on the website of the dealer I'm going to buy the LR from, they sold what they called "rubble rock" for $1.49 lb. I assume this is around golf ball size pieces. <Only true way to understand their definition is to ask.> Do you think it would be worth adding 10 lbs. or so to each sump. <I like rubble for this purpose, but it's not as good of a filter. It's really good for propagating mushrooms. Allow them to spread themselves out over the rubble, and then you can remove them one by one when you go trade corals with friends> Is it the water running through the porous LR achieves the biological filtration or does there have to be lots of life to have any effect? <It's a combination of these things...There are chapters written on this subject. In a nutshell: Larger pieces have better water purification properties. More surface area, more impurities are removed from the water column. Plenty of other good uses for the rubble though! Ryan> Thanks - Kevin

Bioballs in a reef? <hello> Quick overview. Tank and equipment--26 Gal. Bowfront--150 Watt Metal Halide 50 K bulb (Ushio)--Eheim 2213 with just floss and sponge and occasional carbon as prefilter to U.V. Sterilizer--Eheim 2227 Wet dry--Amiracle SL 5 hang on with built in skimmer--25 LBS. live rock--2" to 3 " live sand bed--all coral are additional to original 25 lbs. of live rock--2 rocks yellow polyps--2 rocks mushroom corals--thriving green star polyp--thriving feather dusters--1 small twin spot goby--1 small percula-numerous snails and hermits--1 red Linckia star small)***I plan to add possibly a clam, red gorgonian, maybe some other softies and possibly a few hard.***My questions are as follows...is this skimmer in the AMiracle SL 5 decent ? <its OK but if you can afford it I would get a better one. In the long it will save time and money.> and I was wondering if I should remove the bio balls in the wet dry area of this filter (AMiracle) and turn it into a refugium...is it possible ..and being so small would it be beneficial ? <I would remove the bio balls. Any refugium is better than no refugium don't see why you could not do it. You may have to glue in an acrylic panel, so the sand does not go in the pump. Or you may be able to use the extra space for a larger skimmer. just a thought. MikeH> Movement created by 2 Azoo 1200 powerheads...along with other filters Thanks Guys.

Cyano and Wet dry filters Can you send me some links on better understanding what causes red and green slime type algae and what I can do to rid my tank of them? <You betcha, a very common and annoying problem I was recently at a friends house and though the green Cyano in her reef was so much cooler than the red Cyano I am fighting. Then I realized it is all a pain in the uh... neck. Check out the link below and the links to related information on the top of the page. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bluegralgae.htm > Also, I see that your opinion is to get rid of my bio balls or my wet/dry filter all together. If this is the case what do I replace my wet dry with? What is the best reef filter money can buy (for a 40 gallon breeder tank)? I have also read that removing bio balls is a good thing and something I should do to reduce my nitrates (between 15-20) Your thoughts? What would I replace with? <It depends on what you are keeping, wet/dries with bio balls are great for big messy eaters, but a lot of people have found that for other types of tanks, reefs for example, the space used for bio balls is better suited to hold extra live rock, the best dang reef filter out there. IMO the best filter you can use is a large sump, this will give you the versatility that your tank needs, you can mix and match different filtration methods, bio-balls, live rock, deep sand beds, refugium, whatever is best for your tank, not to mention adding to your water volume and giving you a place to hide heaters/other equipment. So yeah, if you can replace the bio-balls with live rock that would be cool, I am not sure how much space you have, but incorporating a deep sand bed 3-6 inches would be cool too. Use the google search tool on our site to search for deep sand beds, live rock, and sumps, I am sure you will find enough info to drive you nuts. Best Regards, Gage >

Nitrate from filters 12/17/03 Hi Crew <howdy> Keep up the good work! A few questions! 1. I've heard time and again in the daily faq's that the traditional / old bioball sump setup is a 'nitrate sink' whilst the live rock / refugium setup is not. <hmmm... more or less true. Although this is oversimplified> Well, assuming the nitrogen cycle is occurring in both, why is one a nitrate sink and not the other? <because bio-balls are a fully aerobic matrix and do not afford anoxic or anaerobic locales (as in the depths of live rock and especially deep fine sand) for denitrifying faculties> Where in fact do they part company? <as described above... bio-balls are nitrate producing factories> Second q-and knowing this is likely subjective-what do you think the top five inverts are, in terms of long term viability, for a well maintained FO tank , say 75-100g? Thanks! <zoanthids, corallimorphs, Sinularia and Sarcophyton leather corals would top the list for hardiness. No LPS or SPS stony corals would dare make this list for their fragility in handling if nothing else. Stay with soft corals only. Anthony>

The True Function of a Bioball, or is One of Them Dumb as a Rock? >Hello Mr. Bob; >Hello Ms Marina; >>Hello Mr. Wijaya. >Yes, I am very glad to read your statement, right now I'm much confident of my statement. Sorry to write you a long letter but I want to explain to you the condition of our marine local forum. You know, what make me angry of his statement, is because he is a senior member with 23 years of experience in keeping marine aquaria, comparing to me with only just 10 years of experience. >>While I've learned some of the most sage advice from "old-timers", I've learned that some folks are simply "stuck in a rut", a particular mindset from which they will not be moved. If you don't know the American saying about opinions, let me know and I'll tell you (I'll even give the polite version AND, my favorite, the rude version). >He always said that keeping marine aquaria is an expensive hobby, because we must invest in all hi-tech equipment and the setup must contain with live rock and coral, if you setup a fish only system you will fail, and if you just install the aquarium with only a sump filtration combine with protein skimmer you will also fail. >>This is quite amusing to the woman who as ALL ABOUT cheap to free, and never would have been able to set up her first reef system if she hadn't been able to do it inexpensively. But, what do we know, yes? >But again I strongly opposite him, I told him that keeping marine aquaria is not always an expensive hobby, if we only setup a Fish Only Setup, than a sump filtration with protein skimmer is more than enough, I do this and my Pomacanthus xanthometopon can live for more than 4 years with this kind of setup, now I donate my angel to my Sea World, now I keep Arusetta asfur with same setup. >>Nothing like real life to prove someone wrong. >Now, another problem. In this case, I'm still doubt either I wrong or he wrong, he agree beneficial bacteria is living in bioball, I'm also agree, but he told to the forum that bioball comparing with dead crush rock with the same bioball size, the crush rock will hold much more living bacteria, I think this is wrong, according to me the bioball will hold much more living bacteria, who is right? Please advise. >>I can't tell you precisely, because there is much variability both in the rock in question (porosity/surface area) and in the bioballs themselves (again, total surface area). Most folks involved in saltwater would prefer the bioballs over crushed coral (as a for instance) because they're less likely to gather detritus. >By the way, where is Mr. Bob, and who is Marina. Thank you very much for your help. >>Mr. Bob is in the Marquesas at the moment, and Marina is me! If you look on the daily FAQ page you'll see my name listed, and if you go to http://www.reefs.org/taskforce.html#seamaiden then you'll get to see my face.

- Swapping Bioballs for a Sandbed - Several months ago I walked into my LFS and bought a SW tank. I knew nothing and just blindly bought and set up the system to their specifications. I got lucky for the most part however I have been since spent many hours researching trying to rectify my lack of knowledge. I have this massive wet dry sump that is rated for a 200 gal tank( mine is 58 gals) probably overkill. I have read that bio - balls will not allow you to reach the really low nitrate levels that are optimal for corals which I do want to keep once the tank matures. In my tank I have a 2" sand bed with a sand sifting sea star and a horse shoe crab both of which I now know have probably rendered my sand bed lifeless. 85 lbs of live rock a protein skimmer in the sump and loads of bio balls and filter pad. I wanted to know if it would be a good idea to slowly pull out my bio balls and put in a deep sand bed on the bottom of the sump and then above that in the compartment where my bio - balls now resides base rock with a piece or two of live rock. <That would work, but the design of your sump really isn't optimal for the sand bed. Water pouring in from the tank will likely disturb the sandbed which will rob you of any potential benefit. If I were you, I'd work with the store you bought it from to see if you can trade it in and hopefully get into something more useful.> In your valued opinion would this be better then the bio balls? <In the ideal world, yes - is how I run my tank [DSB in the sump] but my sump was designed for that purpose. I don't think a DSB will work well in the sump you sent the picture for, unless you can address the incoming water's ability to wreck the DSB.> I have approx 40 lbs of base rock just sitting in my back room so I thought I could put it to use this way. I have included a pic of the sump I have. <Cheers, J -- >

-Replacing bio-balls w/ live rock- Before I get to the subject of this email I would like to say thank you for all that you guys do. I have found myself running to the computer numerous times to answer what I thought were 911 questions...okay, so I don't really run...but nonetheless thank you for all of your time. By reading your site I have kept from making numerous mistakes. My smaller fishes say thank you for the advice on not buying a large species lion fish. <Excellent!> Now, to the question on hand. I have read on your website that you guys all recommend replacing the bio balls in a wet dry filter with live rock in order to decrease nitrates. The question is how exactly do I do this. Included below are some specs on my tank if you need any additional information. Do I 1. Remove the egg crate from beneath the bio balls and stack the live rock on the base of the wet dry filter? Or do I want to keep that small space under the bio balls free from any obstruction? hmmmm ...Rocks heavy...eggcrate fragile. 2. Keep only the trickling over the live rock or increase the water level in the wet dry to submerge the live rock as much as possible without risking overflow? If I submerge as much of the live rock as possible but some rock still is in open air at the top...will the open air rock stay alive with only the trickle of the water on it? I don't want to buy more rock just to have it die off because I cannot fit all of it under water. 3. If I don't add any type of light to the live rock in the wet dry filter would this still be a good move overall? Can live rock remain as useful without light? If need be I can add some type of cheap lighting in this area under the fish tank cabinet. If you would recommend a light, what wattage or type of light would you personally go with. Not much space in there. <Nope, nope, and nope! The idea here is to replace the bio-balls with live rock as the main source of biological filtration, but NOT literally swap them out. The live rock would go into your display aquarium, putting them where the bio-balls were would create the same nitrate producing environment, not to mention the potential die-off of all kinds of stuff that can't survive only partially submerged. Basically, can the balls, stock the tank with rock.> By the way...Mr. Fenner, wonderful book. I have probably read at least 8 books in the last few months in search of specific answers and yours is by far my favorite. It has wonderful pictures and specific information that I couldn't find in most other books. I have been a big fan of this website for a while and was amazed recently when I made the discovery that you were also the author of the book that I use often. <Great! Will pass along.> Specs: Fish only with live rock -in future would like to add some invertebrates- 75 gallon salt water all glass aquarium 4-5 inches of live sand 50 pounds of Fiji live rock / 12 pounds of Tonga branch. about to add 25 pounds more of Fiji to display live rock built on PVC pipe to give stability and PVC used to create rock overhangs and caves for fish. Coralife compact lighting-260watts with 2 65watt actinic and 2 65watt 10,000k bulbs wet dry filter-custom made for 200 gallon tank-prob around 40 gallons...this sits under the fish tank in the cabinet and is fed with water through a hang on box with double siphons and a prefilter....man does this evaporate water fast. <Just seems to since it's a small sump, the sump really doesn't add much to the evaporation rate.> A tetra tech PF500 hang on filter A 1140 Penguin power head for assisted circulation in the main aquarium An Aqua clear aquatics protein skimmer that sits in the sump area of the wet dry filter...currently thinking of a way to build something to place the skimmer in a more useful area Live stock: 1 very large tomato clownfish 1 4 inch Radiata Lion fish 1 flame angel 1 yellow tang All tests result in normal ranges. Exception would be nitrate around 20-30 ppm. <Alright, here's the plan, or at least the idea. I would can the bio-balls, you have more than enough live rock and sand to keep this tank in perfect working order. I would suggest only using the tetra-tech for carbon or other resin and abandon it's use as a biological and mechanical filter for reasons you will find in the many FAQ's. That's it, everything else seems in good order!> Thank you for your time, <No prob -Kevin>

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