Please visit our Sponsors

FAQs on BioFiltration 2

Related FAQs: Biofiltration 1, & FAQs on Biological Cycling: Science/Rationale, Techniques/Methods: Seeding Filter Media, Live Rock/Sand, Using Livestock, Cycling Products: By Manufacturers/Names: Bio-Spira, Cycle...  Chemical Feeding, Anomalies/Fixing 1, Trouble/Fixing 2, & Ozone & Ozonizers, Ultraviolet Sterilizers, Wet-Dry Filters, Bio-Balls, Protein Skimmers, Fluidized Beds, Ammonia, Nitrites, Nitrates, PhosphatesDenitrification/Denitrifiers, Deep Sand Beds

Related Articles: BioFiltrationNutrient Control and Export

No waiting for ramp-ups (changes in bio-loads) with established fluidized bed filters.

Rotary drum filter      1/29/16
Hey Bob
Tom over at Aquascape Chicago. Been looking at building our own collection facilities in Hawaii and have come across these drum filters. Do you see them being something worth out time vs. a large pool sand filter?
<They definitely are... Highly efficient and MUCH easier to operate and maintain.
.. Oh for my skin back from digging gravel, sand et al. out of sand filters!>
Our goal is to be as green as we can be and was thinking that this spray off from the drum could be used for our mangroves to root in.
<A great idea. See the Blog recently from our visit w/ Pablo Tepoot and his Mangrove, soil-less filter sumps? Very impressive. Bob Fenner>

Fwd: Set up help.  2/6/10
Did not receive an answer at my e-mail address.
<Mmm, unusual>
I tried looking on your website but I got totally lost after hours trying to find the response.
Thought I'd resend it.
WetWebMedia Crew,
I have a 175 gal FO tank that I'm redoing to include a new 3 section 45 gal sump (8 gal input w- skimmer section/ 20 gal bio filtration section/ 5 gal return section, leaving 12 gal of space in case of power failure). I have read for hours on your wonderful site but I need some additional clarity and advise. Your help and expertise would be sincerely appreciated.
<Is here Les: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/FOSystemFAQs.htm
Ref# Set up help. FO SW 2/3/10 Set up help. FO SW 2/3/10, bio-filtr.   2/6/10
<Hey Les>
Thanks you so much for taking time to respond to my original email concerning the set up of my sump. Novice like me are truly blessed to have access to your website, assistance and expertise. I have just one follow up question.
I have a 175g marine FO tank (5 med & 5 sm fish) with crushed rock bed, large dead coral but no live rock. I'm installing a 45g sump that includes a 20g bio-filtration section. I wanted to use that 20g as my only bio-filtration (besides my skimmer).
<Mmm... for the record, skimmers don't provide much of any biological filtration>
I planned on using LR, macroalgae and sand/mud, but my plans were put on hold when read that 1.5 lbs of LR per gal of water was recommended. So I immediately sought your advise because I couldn't put 250-300lbs of LR in the 20g bio-filtration section of my sump.
When I asked you if the 20g bio-filtration section in the sump would be enough bio-filtration to support the 175g tank + 45g sump water volume (without any additional power bio-filtration besides my skimmer) your response was <Can, could be; yes>.
<<And still is>>
I'm perplexed by your response. Sorry for my confusion. Would you mind clarifying. How would you set up this 20g bio-filtration section in the sump to handle a 175g tank + 45g sump volume of water?
Thanks again,
<Actual "bio-filtration" will/does occur on all hard surfaces (and detritus in and amongst) as well as on much livestock... The added material in your refugium should be more than adequate in addition to the bacterial action elsewhere. BobF>

Cycling/filtration... SW   8/29/2009
Hi. This is my first time writing to you. I spend the last week reading articles on your site but can't find a couple answers. I've kept saltwater fish and corals for about 10 years. Up to 20 tanks at a time! I got addicted...anyway, I currently have just one. A 90 gal with a 20 gal sump? with enough bio-balls for 90-120 gal(so they say),?120# "live "sand, you know...the stuff they package up and claim it's live...and maybe 50-60#s of rock. It was never live rock. It was dry? when I got it for this tank.?For the past 5 years I've only had a tessellated moray in it.
<A lot of animal for this volume>
I was away for 2 weeks and had a "friend" taking care of feeding him and my dog. I'm lucky my dog is still alive. When I got back, the eel was gasping for air and had some sort of skin infection. I immediately took him out into a 40 gal tank with new water and he died in about a day. Still not sure what happened, but figured it had something to do with the water. So I changed all the water except for the small amount in the sand bed. After a week I tested it and it all looked good. A week later the same. Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 and Nitrate about 20. I never let the rock, sand or bio-balls dry out, so I figured I wouldn't have to cycle at this point. The 3rd week still the same numbers so I went a bought another Tess. moray and a blue spotted whiptail ray.
<Poor mix... and a ray won't live in such a size, shape world for long>
Yes, I know how hard they are supposed to be to keep. I've read about them for 10 years. And I know that I will soon need a much bigger tank for it.
I'm building her a 8' x 4' by 20" tank.
Anyway, I've had them for 3 weeks. Changing 5% of the water a week. Both are doing great. Except for trying to keep the eel from stealing food from the ray. And they are both messy eaters. I have one question and one concern. I want to add another sump to this setup and even a power filter of some kind. Hang on or canister. Is that safe to do?
Will both the new sump and the filter go through their own cycle period that could affect the whole tank?
<They won't mal-affect it>
And my concern is that I just checked the water today. Ammonia 0 Nitrite .5
<Nitrite needs to be 0.0>
and Nitrate at 100 or possibly more! Any suggestions?
<... Yes, read: http://wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm
and the linked files above... Standard approaches are all covered>
I'm assuming they are creating more waste then what my tank can currently handle. They are both quite small. Eel about 15" and the ray about 12" long and a disk of about 5". Any suggestions would be helpful on my setup and what I can safely add to it to keep Nitrates lower.
<Sure. Read>
<Welcome. Bob Fenner>

Refugium Live Rock 5/10/08 Hello <Hello.> Thank you all for your help <Welcome, glad we can help.> I just have a quick question if you wouldn't mind. I have my 30g reef with a hang on overflow going into my recently set up 36g sq refugium. <A good size refugium, especially considering the tank size!> Through the wonders of Craig's list I recently came across a rather good deal on LR which I will be picking up tonight (1 dollar per pound if I bought the whole 200 lbs it is Fiji rock) so I will be getting 200# of rock. <<This is too much rock for this size system -Sara M.>> <This is very often the best way to get LR with the high attrition rate in the hobby.> I was thinking about putting all of the rock into a Rubbermaid container of an appropriate size and putting an overflow onto my refugium. So I would have my reef draining into my refuge and that draining into the LR container then pumped back into the reef. <Sounds great.> I was thinking with this much LR I would be able to forgo all of my mechanical filtration. <I would at least keep a skimmer (mechanical filter).> I was already planning on retiring all but my protein skimmer but I was wondering if the skimmer would be necessary with that much extra water volume and LR. <A skimmer is technically never “necessary”, but sure does make a huge impact on your water quality. Even with the added volume and live rock a skimmer still gives you huge benefits. Using all of the above together will only improve your water quality that much more.> Oh and I have a DSB in the refugium do you think I would get any added benefit putting one in the Rubbermaid or would that just be a dead zone to collect detritus? <Yes, more area for NNR.> I was planning on putting one or two extremely powerful powerheads in to try and not get any nutrient build up or dead spots in the Rubbermaid. <A good idea.> I know in the future I will be moving to larger tanks which Is why I am buying this now I figured it can’t hurt. <It won’t hurt, added LR and system volume are always welcome. Planning for a larger tank is a natural evolution of the addiction/hobby!> Thanks a lot for any ideas/ help you can give me. <Welcome, your plan sound fine. Have fun, Scott V.>

Biological filter stability/change of color on some mushrooms    11/14/06 Hi! Wondering just what is needed to damage the biological filter in an established aquarium. For example, if I'm working in the main tank just picking some debris from the sand bed, after I finish I wash my hands and dry them with a towel when I just realized that a power-head is misplaced, I go on and once again remove the top and put my hand inside the tank and re-position the power-head, will the biological filter be compromised because of that, or if my hands are not completely dry and I introduce them into the tank? <Mmm, no> In another question, why would some mushrooms that I recently got changed color from an almost orange color to a more reddish one, could it be because too much or too little light? <Could be... or other aspects/changes in their environment, feeding> My system consist of a 55gal main tank with (4) 65watts 50/50 bulbs alternating during a 12 noon to 8pm span with an overlap from 3 to 5pm) under the main tank a 10gal refugium with a reverse light cycle. <... BobF>

Nitrification/Denitrification and Chaetomorpha linum 8/1/05 Thank you so much for such a prompt reply. <<Glad to help>> I have had a really good look around your site, and I'm still struggling to find a few more answers, so I really hope you don't mind me asking just a few more questions. With the cycling process in a aquarium without a wet/dry filter, where does the ammonia and nitrite conversion take place exactly. The reason I ask, is because I have always previously understood, that the bacteria required to perform this conversion only survives in aerobic conditions. With no wet/dry, there are no true areas where oxygen is constantly present, so where does the ammonia/nitrite/nitrate conversion take place. (or have I totally missed something?) I'm "guessing" that it all happens with bacteria present in the live rock/sand, but all I have read about DSB's and live rock is its ability to convert nitrates back to nitrogen because of the "good" bacteria living in the anaerobic conditions. <<Good guess. There are two processes to consider. The nitrification process is an aerobic process where the waste is oxidized. The denitrification process is an anaerobic process where the waste is reduced. The aerobic process occurs on the surface of the rock as well as the sand bed. The anaerobic process occurs deep in the sand bed as well as in deep pores in the rock.>> I'd really appreciate it if you could clarify this for me. <<Hope this clears things up for you.>> (I really do apologize if this question/query has been asked before, but I've had a good look around and still cant find the answer - thank you! :)..) Just going on from the Chaetomorpha question, the main reason I asked if it existed on all coral reefs, is because I was wondering if it could potentially be harvested here off the coast of Australia. There is a store in Western Australia who would be prepared to look for it, IF they knew it existed (as they at the moment they only harvest Caulerpa for refugium applications)<< I found an internet site that indicates that C. linum is found in the Indian Ocean and in particular mentions Australia as part of the distribution. Please see http://ucjeps.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin/getent?2833 >> Thank you once again. Paul << You're welcome. Cheers - Ted >> Thank you once again Ted, that clarifies a lot - and thanks for the link re: Chaetomorpha. <<You're welcome. Glad things are bit clearer.>> I'll try and refrain from anymore questions for the time being - but no doubt once I finally have my tank up and running, I'll have a multitude! Paul <<No worries. Good luck and don't hesitate to ask questions. Cheers - Ted>> BioWheels Hi, Thanks for an awesome site. I've had many questions answered by all the information it contains. I currently have a 55 g with 1 yellow tang, 4 small Chromis, a few snails and hermit crabs, a couple of shrimp, and a brittle star. I've been battling with my nitrate. I currently have a Penguin 350 power filter with 2 bio wheels and a Berlin Air Lift 60 skimmer (not a great one and am hoping to upgrade to a Remora soon). <This will really help> I recently added a 5 inch sand bed to the tank. I use treated tap water for my 10% weekly water changes. It tests at 5 ppm for nitrates. My question is, will removing the bio wheels help to reduce the nitrate?  <Mmm, not much here... the new sand-bed and upcoming skimmer will accomplish this> It is currently at 20 ppm. I only have about 15 lbs of live rock currently and will probably add it slowly for budget concerns. My big concern would be with the lack of biological filtration by removing the bio wheels. <Not likely an issue given the history of this system, its components... You could try/see what will happen with its removal (very likely nothing). Bob Fenner>

Biological filtration I have a standard wet/dry sump on a 75-gallon FOWLR marine tank. I have my Wavemaster Pro set to run the main pump which allows a timed feeding cycle of 30-minutes. This being a great feature since most of my deposited food floats for the at least a couple of minutes as the fish and invertebrates slowly start to eat it, without the pump off my overflow quickly cleans up the food moving it to the mechanical filter very fast.  My question is, during the feeding cycle of 30-minutes the wet/dry filters biological media is covered totally underwater (as opposed to "being dripped on") since the sump pump is off and the water level decreases temporarily in the main tank. Is this hurting my bacteria colonies on the substrate in the wet/dry chamber by having it "oxygen deprived" for a short period of time twice a day? Appreciate your time in reading this, I truly hope its a unique question, I tried all the keywords I could find to make sure it was not answered yet in the wet/dry and bioballs sections.  <Phil my friend, you have no worries. James (Salty Dog)> 

Maintaining biological filtration in a fishless tank Hi Crews, <Hi Wid, MacL here tonight to help> It's been some months that I didn't bother you guys, here I am again. I'll jump right in. 33 gallons display tank + 18 gallons sump Venturi protein skimmer 22 pounds live rocks 4-5" DSB in display tank Assorted soft corals and Corallimorph 1 feather duster worm 1 banded serpent star 5 assorted snails 2 cleaner shrimp 1 coral banded shrimp (in sump) Hitchhikers: assorted snails, worms and tunicates... and also... Aiptasia. Tank has been running for about 6 weeks since we moved. Fishes in 15 gallons quarantine tank with canister filter: 2 x 1.5" false Percula clownfish 1.2" royal Dottyback 1.2" bicolour angel Earlier on there is also a coral beauty angel in display tank (that jumped out of tank during a bacterial bloom due to overdosing carbon food for denitrifying bacteria)  that I see a couple of white spots on and off everyday, and even changes location everyday, is this ich? <Definitely sounds like it.> Although other fishes are fine, but as I am too afraid of the consequences having ich residing permanently in my tank, I decide to let my tank go fallow and running at 84 to 86 deg. F, and dipped my fishes with Seachem's ParaGuard (some aldehydes with malachite green thingie that claims to cure most bad stuffs) before quarantining them. <Smart> After the quarantine and fallowing, I wish that I can transfer all fishes at once without overloading the biological filter. So while the fishes are "away", I wish that I can provide something for the bacteria to chew on. I have a bottle of Marine Snow lying around useless after knowing that it doesn't do much good to anything, what do you think if I dose this everyday to tank according to the recommended dosage? <Generally people just put a little food in every so often. I must say I had very good luck personally with Marine Snow but I know many people who haven't had the success.> Or do I just need to turn off the skimmer? But I am a bit worried of the Soft corals Wars. <Leave the skimmer on. But you'll need to feed the corals like you normally would with the fish there anyway.> I was actually thinking of letting a piece of fish meat rot in there instead of the above method, but my worry is that would ich harbour on fish meat and multiply?<If you do that you could get a large ammonia rise and start the whole cycling process all over again. Might loose something in the fluctuations.> If this is true, I actually have a crazy idea to put a piece of meat in there and remove it the next day, and do this everyday to help to remove some ich. Anyway this is out of topic :p. <I really think you should not do this. But I do congratulate you on your thinking. It shows how much you care for your tank.> Thanks for bearing with such a long mail. :) Regards, Wid <Just feed the tank as you normally would, with perhaps not as much food and it will be fine.> Moving Filter Media Hello WWM Crew, <Hi! Ryan Bowen with you>     I have a problem I'm hoping you can help. <Do my best> I have a large wet/dry on a 180 gallon tank.  The fish are 1 yellow tang, 1 Foxface, 1 (5") lionfish, 1 (10") puffer, 1 (10") panther grouper.  The problem is that one of the lower tray that holds the bio-balls has collapsed.  Little by little bio-balls are escaping and getting sucked into the pump so I have to remove them. <Yikes.  Replace them with live rock?>     My question is how do I install a new wet/dry?  There is no room underneath the stand for two large wet/dries. I tried just adding one on and eventually overtime remove the bio-balls of the old filter so the bacteria would have to colonize on the new filter, but that didn't work out...  One filter in low on water the other is high, make some adjustments and vice versa I sure you know what I mean. <I'd remove all the bio-balls from the first filter, place them in a clean bucket, then hook up the new filter.  Use the bio-balls from your old filter in place of the new bio-balls, and the bacteria should be able to keep up.  But please, get some water ready for a water change if need be.  Good luck! http://www.wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm> What should I do? Thank a lot, Melissa

Nitrites vs. Nitrates 6/14/04 Are these two related as in one is a result of the other? I cant quite make sense of it and at present only test for Nitrite, is this sufficient or should I test for both (among the millions of other things to test for/add/remove)? <Fish and other aquatic animals produce ammonia as waste.  Bacteria convert the ammonia to Nitrite and then convert the Nitrite to Nitrate and then Nitrate to Nitrogen gas.  Ammonia is the most toxic, then Nitrite then Nitrate.  I recommend testing all three until you verify that ammonia and nitrite are always kept at undetectable levels.  At that time, testing only for nitrate is fine.  I would consider pH, Calcium, Alkalinity and Nitrate all mandatory to test for occasionally.> Also another thing on freshwater and Methylene blue dips can I do all new fish at once or should they be dipped individually, can dip be re-used for fish in turn or should new fresh be made up for each? <I would strongly suggest using a separate, freshly prepared dip for each fish.  Based on your question, I would suggest a trip through WWM's vast collection of articles and FAQ's as well as picking up a copy of Bob Fenner's "Conscientious Aquarist".  Best of luck!  Adam>

Bioball Blunder? (Nitrogen Cycle Disruption) Guys, <Scott F. your guy today!> Recently , I went away for a long weekend. When I returned, I noticed my wet/dry was severely clogged so it wasn't working very well. Just enough to barely keep a drip coming trough my filter. After checking the bio balls, I decided they were moist enough, so I removed the impedance and let the tank run full tilt ...I figured I would lose some of my biologics, but being that I have so many back ups (see my specs below) I wouldn't have a problem. A week later, I noticed both my Powder Blue Tang (had for 2 yrs) and my Yellow Tang (had for 7 months) dead with my clown fish grasping for air. <Yikes!> I quickly removed them into my hospital tank and noticed them perk right up... I immediately assumed lack of oxygen!! Or a high level of nitrates!! <Honestly, I've never heard of nitRATES causing this type of reaction. NITRITE, maybe-or ammonia...Did you check ammonia and nitrite?> After testing my fears, we somewhat confirmed with nitrates at approx 18-20. <Not what you'd want in a reef tank, but certainly not "toxic" enough to create the reaction that you're seeing. Bioball-filtered systems often run at nitrate levels between 10-20ppm...> After a closer look with stomach in its proper place, I noticed that one of my anemones is missing (had 2 pink tips located on opposite ends. Now I have one (They haven't moved since I got them) which I have had for a few months! Knowing what they are capable of, I began my quest to immediately find it... I had no luck. It is completely gone, vanished!! Could this raise my levels so drastically? <A death of an animal such as this, if left undetected, could create significant ammonia/nitrite levels in some systems> The other anemone looks fine, and I have since run carbon on the tank for two days and added my fish back and they seem to be fine. My nitrates are back to normal after adding "BioZyme"... Should I be looking for something else? <Well, an unusual "die off" event like this usually has its root cause in some sort of sudden environmental shift. Long established fish and animals generally don't expire so quickly unless something was up. Tangs are notoriously touchy when it comes to rapid changes in environmental conditions. Your hunch about oxygen was an interesting one, although not likely the cause. I would have loved to have seen you test for ammonia and nitrite. Sounds like your biological filtration was severely interrupted, or that some influx of metabolic toxins was released into the system as a result of the disturbance. You want to also confirm that your system was operating at peak efficiency-not "on the brink of disaster"- waiting for some small event to tip it over the edge. If it were me, I'd make an extra effort to perform some small, frequent water changes for a while, and I'd work that skimmer until you produce at least a couple of cups of dark, yucky smelling skimmate a week. Work the nutrient export angle aggressively. In fact, with significant amounts of live rock and sand in your system, you may want to ditch the bioballs altogether at some point, as they will continue to contribute nitrate to the system. gain, nitrate in and of itself is not "bad"- it's just a good yardstick for overall water quality.> I have 1yr old 120 gallon (seeded from a 5 yr old 55) that has 4*96 watt CFL, two powerheads 802 in the tank for circulation, 24 inch CPR refugium (10months old including LR, mangroves, other algae plants , 4 Peppermint Shrimp), homemade wet/dry (5 gallon bucket full of bio balls - 40 gallon sump, 1000 gallon an hour return including a Berlin classic protein skimmer), at least 150 pounds LR , 5 pd.s of GARF grunge on top of a one inch crushed coral bed 3/4 of the tank 1/4 live sand. other fish , 2 Percula Clowns, 1 Sixline wrasse, 4 cleaner shrimp, approx 50 hermit crabs, 50 assorted snails, 2 Bar Gobies, 1 Algae Blenny, 1 Damsel , 3 Spotted Cardinals, 2 sand sifting star fish, 1 Brittle starfish , 1 Decorator Crab ... I think that about does it. Unless some freeloaders came with the rock... Timothy M. Blind <Well, Timothy, your system sounds pretty well managed and not overstocked. I think that this was some kind of one-time event linked to the disruption of the biological filtration. It seems too coincidental. However, it's important to regularly monitor your environmental parameters to be able to spot trends that could hint at some problem down the line. Stay on top of those good husbandry techniques that you've developed, keep changing the water, and don't be discouraged. Hang in there! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>
Bioball Blunder? (Pt. 2)
Scott, <Hi there!> As a worried parent of-course I checked all my levels!! But I didn't have anything else that was out of whack so to speak. I do understand that tangs are less hardy to any changes in the environment but the fact that my rock solid clown fish were grasping for air is what really scared me....I still do not feel comfortable with the tank, maybe it comes from having so much time invested to a stable environment. <True...These kinds of events are highly unusual and very unnerving!> The only thing I forgot to add in my prior email was that I use RO water rebuilt with Osmo prep marine. <Sounds fine> calcium approx 450 ammonia approx .2 <Whoaahh- Ammonia should be undetectable. Are you sure? You should have no visible ammonia reading. Do recheck- or have this correlated by someone with a different test kit.> nitrite as close to zero as it has ever been.... <As in "zero"...or something more than zero? Again- not what you want to see> I will be continuing to do water changes but I am still so confused , like you said, I should be able to run without the bioballs considering the low bioload in the tank and the fully functional refugium. <Exactly...Which is why I think that your ammonia and nitrite levels may be an artifact of expired reagents or human error (i.e.; a misread of the results). You sound like a good aquarist; really on the ball with things, and if you've had continuous low-level ammonia and nitrite, something is really wrong> I guess I will chalk this up to even in perfect systems we can not duplicate the natural environment <Not to the point of it being indistinguishable from nature!> and we can't watch the tank all day long.... <Yep- I wish we all could!> On a separate issue, I was reading an article on star fish and it was stating that they can very methodically remove the "Live Part " of your substrate is this true? <Some starfish do eat the infauna that reside in sandbeds. Yep.> If so , can you suggest something that would burrow into the substrate without removing all of the beneficial organisms. < Yep! A small wooden dowel, strategically placed in by you to break up any solidified sections of your sand bed! Quite honestly, I don't really see the need for sand sifting stars and cucumbers in a well maintained system. This is not to say that including them is wrong...I just don't believe it is essential for success, myself. Many of the smaller worms and other creatures that reside in the sand bed will "aerate" the sand bed in a manner analogous to their terrestrial counterparts. I don't like disturbing any more than the top half inch of sand. That's my personal take on this issue!> Thanks again for your time, Tim <My pleasure, Tim! Good luck the rest of the way! Regards, Scott F> Timothy M. Blind

Foam Blocks in situ >Hi, >>Hello. >I have a 125 reef set-up for about 6 months, have a 55 gal. sump, in sump I placed a couple of coarse foam filter blocks on the bottom to hold bacteria, figuring it would help the tank set-up quicker. >>Well, no, it won't speed up growth of bacterial cultures, but it does provide another great place to grow them. Another good thing doing this is that you've got an instant culture for q/t systems. >The tank is doing fine. Should I leave them, rinse every time I change water, or remove. >>I'd leave 'em. >I really don't know if they helped, and/or are helping, what do you think? >>Not helping, not hindering, keep them.  >Also, I would like to add a shut off valve into my existing PVC plumbing to sump, can I glue fittings on an existing set-up, will it hurt the inhabitants? Thanks In Advance, Louie >>Louie, you can do the with plumbing as it is, the problem IS that it MUST be cured for a full 24 hours. You'll have to clean it well, prepare the surfaces, glue, then NO water through for that 24hrs. In order to do this you'll need to create some sort of bypass or alternate filtration. Marina

Bacteria question 4/5/04  I have a 10 gallon saltwater tank for 8 months. I replace 1 gallon a week. It has a Firefish goby, a rainfordi goby, a clown goby, 4 dwarf seahorses, snails and hermits and a peppermint shrimp. As long as I leave it alone all the numbers are good except for nitrates which are about 20. But when I change the filter insert (penguin mini) everything goes up. I assume that I am losing a lot of bacteria by changing the insert. Is there any way to minimize the affect. It seems to take two weeks to get back to normal.  <I am assuming you mean that you get some ammonia and nitrite when you clean the filter element in the penguin. This is likely due to the die off of some of the bacteria in the element, especially if you expose it to fresh water. A good practice would be to wash it in the water you take out when you do a water change.>  A few weeks ago when I got the rainfordi I asked you about his not eating and you recommended patience. I still do not see him actually eat but at least now he does his thing which is sifting sand into his mouth and out his gills. Hopefully he is finding nutrition there.  <Rainford's are 'pod specialists. They often will not eat prepared foods. If they do, chopped Mysis shrimp is a good choice. Brine shrimp can be used to get them to start eating, but is not nutritionally adequate for long term use. These fish do best in large well established reef tanks where they can constantly forage for tiny crustaceans. Best Regards. Adam>

When should I stop? Quick Question. At what point will lowering the specific gravity adversely affect my biological filter media?  At what point will it stop to grow good bacteria on the media.  Specific #'s would be great. <NSW, near sea water conditions are best. That is, a specific gravity of 1.025 is ideal... and keeping this about here (topping off regularly, adjusting new water carefully) is very beneficial. For treatment with hyposalinity, any drop/change in Spg will adversely affect nitrification. ANY. You should monitor aspects (ammonia, nitrite) daily, be ready with new water for dilution, perhaps chemical filtrants, pre-made biological filter material... if lowering Spg, or raising it.>          If you want some details leading up to this question read on, if not thanks for your help!         I have a 120 gallon main tank a 20 gallon quarantine and a ten gallon hospital.  All tanks are biologically alive with all parameters in check.     The reason I have all the tanks going is that I just got a majestic angel about a week ago, I know what you are thinking but I did my research and realize what I'm up against and took 7 months of going to my LFS to find the perfect specimen.  The problem occurred when I introduced some Caulerpa to the main tank for a treat for my powder blue after a quick rinse without quarantine," bad move". I've been doing this for 5 years now, will I ever learn.  Within about 5 days the tang had some spots, I caught him gave him a dip then returned him home. Three days later you know what.  Unfortunately I'm in it for the long haul now at least 45 days.              So now I have three tanks set up and running. A ten gal hospital bare bones with a powder blue in it which I'm am treating with hypo salinity and formalin dips plus my own tank/filter creation which has a high enough turn over rate to successfully filter out that pesky littlie protozoa but allows me to segregate the bio filter. A 20 gallon quarantine tank with 8lbs of live rock, live sand, tang haven algae two power heads and a whisper 30-60 which I modified and put  bio wheels in to boost it's efficiency, one Chromis and a majestic angel.  Did I mention I have now found a few spots on the angel?   <Now you have> So let's break it down I have three tanks with Ick and five fish I have to find a place for to let the main tank go fallow for about two months.  Yes. I do have cleaner shrimp but about all they're good for is making babies and stealing food from the anemone, Its a good thing my two Percula's are great protectors.  I have a written protocol for all new fish but slipped on the algae.  I always use my quarantine first then if the new fish have parasites I put them in my hospital which I will establish 1 week or more ahead of getting a new fish by a sponge filter from my main tank  then I can let the quarantine go fallow for a month while I treat the new fish in the hospital tank without drugging up the water then after one month they go back in the quarantine tank for another two weeks. I always try to keep from using meds, except in dips, if I can at all avoid it.  If there still alive after all this then they make it into aquarium paradise, if not then at least I didn't contaminate my main display. I have about a 85% success rate.  I thought I had a fool proof system. I guess the fool didn't fallow the system.                    Without the books of Bob F. and articles on this site I wouldn't have ever stayed in this hobby.  You guy's are the Bomb! <Be chatting, Bob Fenner>

Ditch my Bio-Bale? 1/15/03 Greetings WWM Crew!  Your site has been a great source of information - thanks for all the hard work.  I've done my best to read everything on here about bio-media vs. live rock and sand, and I'm looking for a little more affirmation here before I try. <Glad you find WWM helpful!  Adam here today.> I have a 37-ish tall tank, with a CPR BakPak2 (Bio-bale still in it) and a Maxi-Jet 600 for extra circulation.  Lighting is an old eclipse hood that was modified to use the BakPak, bulbs of indeterminate age.  I have about 3 inches of a course substrate and 9 pieces of rock (some started life as live, some dry - all nicely covered in micro algae) that take up maybe 1/5 of the tank's volume - substrate and rock have been in the tank for about 4 years.  Ammonia 0, Nitrite 0, Nitrate 20. Inhabitants include: 1 Striped Puffer (4 inch) 1 Longhorn Cowfish (2.5 inch) 2 small clowns 1 small blue damsel 1 large yellow damsel Assorted hermit crabs, 2 small emerald crabs, 1 scallop, 1 Chocolate Chip starfish The puffer and the cowfish are going to my 150 when it's done cycling in a few weeks. <Whew!  Glad to hear they are moving to bigger quarters!  It sounds like things are pretty "Cozy" in your current tank!> I'd like to try taking the bio-bale out to reduce the nitrates, and wanted to make sure my setup was a good candidate.  Eventually the 37 will be my invertebrate tank - the 150 is FO.  Any advice would be appreciated!  Regards, Dave <I would try removing the bio-bale.  From what I have seen of them, I doubt they do much anyway.  It may take over a week to see nitrates dropping.  If they don't come down after about two weeks, write back and we will figure out why.  It may just be that with such a high bioload, they will run high.  HTH  Adam>

Crazy Bio Media! Scott <Hi there!> Can I try using the plastic hair curlers as well. <Well, if it has some surface area for bacteria to colonize, it's worth a shot...If you are submerging the biomedia, I'd go for some live rock rubble...If you're using in in a trickle situation, then go for it..>! I do have some Siporax in my sump already and it would be a lot cheaper to fill up the rest of the sump with hair curlers on top of the Siporax. <I suppose it's worth experimenting with!> Should I go for the smaller ones or the larger ones? <I'd go with the smaller ones, myself!> Should I wait till the nitrates and ammonia levels are down to zero before adding fish or almost zero? <Zero!> What would a safe measurement be to introduce fish? <Undetectable ammonia and nitrite..> U also mentioned to me that I should aim for a salinity of 1.025 isn't this a bit high for a fish with live rock setup. <Well, it's actually close to the worldwide average specific gravity...I'd shoot for it, myself. Some people advocate lower specific gravities for FO tanks, citing that parasites are less likely to be a problem, etc...I've read of studies where prolonged exposure to lower specific gravities was actually more detrimental...I like 1.025. Sure, 1.022-1.025 is just fine...Pick a number and stick with it-that's my best advice!> Is 1.025 not more suitable for a reef setup? <I think so...But it works fine for a FO tank, too> Regards Ziad Limbada <Take care! Scott F>

Doing The Ring Thing (Using Ceramic Biomedia) Hi, I have a magnum 350 canister filter and I hear that this filter doesn't have little or no biological filtration.  Do you think I can put some ceramic rings where the activated carbon was and have bacteria colonize on those rings as biological filtration? Thank you very much for your assistance. <Absolutely. In fact, over time, activated carbon will cease becoming a chemical media after its absorptive qualities are used up, and will allow bacteria to colonize on its porous surfaces. If biological filtration is your goal, then by all means, feel free to use the ceramic rings. Regards, Scott F>

Biomedia? Hi There Scott <Hello again!> I also have been told to fill my sump up mainly with Siporax? What do you think? Regards, Ziad Limbada <Well, Ziad, Siporax is a biological support medium, which I believe is made from a specially extruded glass. It works much like bioballs or other biomedia, providing large surface area for beneficial bacteria to adhere to. If it were me, I'd simply employ some live rock rubble to provide the same type of biological filtration capacity, at less expense. If you are using a trickle filter, such media can be useful. However, if you are simply employing a sump, then I'd go for the live rock rubble for additional biological support. Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F.>

New Tank Won't Start Cycling 07/23/03  Dear Crew <Hi Dave, PF with you tonight> I am still relatively new to this hobby (6 months) and have been very successful with my first FO tank (20 gallons) because of your site and this is the first time I have had to write in (which is a good thing). I have now upgraded to a 90 gallon system with sump and overflow system.  The tank has been set up with salt water for 5 weeks and I added 60 something pounds (32kg) of cured live rock 4 weeks ago. I also added with the live rock some bacterial starter along with a 10 litres of water and a cup of substrate from my 20 gallon. After the first 2 weeks that my rock was in I tested every 2 days and the ammonia stayed at .25, nitrite 0 and nitrate 5 never seeing a rise in Nitrite. Temp 26 degrees Celsius, ph 8.1 and sg 1.024, skimmer running. So I added my two clowns from my 20 gallon tank to see if that would spike the ammonia (planned to remove once ammonia started rising) and still two weeks later the ammonia is flatlining at .5, Nitrite 0 and Nitrate rose to 10. I have removed the clowns and am stumped as to what to do to get the cycling process started. pH is still 8.1, temp 26, and sg 1.024.  Thanks, Dave <Well Dave, start here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm there's a lot there to learn about. Instead of using your fish, you can use pieces of raw shrimp to pump up the ammonia levels. A lot of it also is a matter of time. Also try adding a little more substrate from your other tank, you could use the water from your 20 when you do water changes on the new tank. Good luck, PF>

Bacteria Support Thanks for your e-mail. Just a quick question. Will the bacteria in the filter live even though there is no fish in the aquarium - i.e. no waste for the bacteria to feed from?  The aquarium will be empty of fish for about 7 weeks. Please advise. <Should be fine. If you are concerned, use a very small amount of food once a week. Don> Thank you.

Removing fish and the bacterial filter. I currently have a 75 gallon salt water tank with six fish.  I am planning on taking four out to give to my daughter and just keep the remaining two for a while.  I know that the bacteria in the biological filter will adjust itself to the new bioload and wanted to know if the excess bacteria that dies off will cause a problem.  I have heard that it will consume large amounts of oxygen that will eventually cause problems with the remaining fish problems.  Please let me know what you think.  Thanks, James <Hi James, Don here. The size of the fish will have some affect on this as well. You might remove just one fish every 10-14 days to be safe. Hope this helps>
Re: Removing fish and the bacterial filter.
Thanks Don, Since my daughter came to my house this weekend, I gave her the four fishes.  Will the bacteria that dies off use up enough oxygen to put my remaining two in jeopardy?  Thanks again, James <I understand. Again, size is a factor, but I doubt that the bacterial die-off will cause a problem. If you think that the fish are stressed (re: heavy/labored breathing) then you could add an airstone or two. Or if you have an aerating attachment for a powerhead, that could be used instead. Good luck, Don>

Re: Gravel, Change or Not? Thanks for the response.  A follow-up question, if you will: since the Eclipse system is supposed to be superior because it houses beneficial bacteria on the Bio-Wheel, wouldn't that make it less likely the tank would be disturbed by replacing the gravel with sand? <Good Evening, All biological filters have Bio-Media where bacteria is grown to breakdown ammonia, nitrites. Your gravel has carries a good portion of your aquariums beneficial bacteria population. About 3 years ago I had a 45gal tank with parrotfish changed the gravel and I had to large bio-wheel filters and my fish died because I had nitrites and ammonia in my aquarium water due to the removal of some of the bio-media (which was the gravel). Gravel can be changed but I would make it a gradual one (maybe take 1/4 of the old out and put 1/4 of the new in) just make sure if you decide to change the gravel feed the fish very sparingly and get the water tested often, I don't want you to loose fish like I did three years ago. IanB>

Refugium + Bio Balls Necessary? I've been researching setting up a marine aquarium for a few months now as I gather up the funds to start diving into the hobby.<I/We here at WWM admire people who research before just "diving" into this hobby, good job> I'm fascinated and excited by the hobby and can't wait to jump in. At the same time I'm intimidated and confused and wonder when and if I'll ever be fully ready to get started.<you will, don't worry> I plan on starting up a 110 gallon tank, with a refugium sump underneath the tank followed by a protein skimmer before the water is pumped back up into the tank.<sounds good> My question is a simple one, is it beneficial to have bioballs prior to the water dropping into the refugium? Or does the refugium completely eliminate the need for bio balls? <the refugium will eliminate the need for bio-balls. I would purchase some nice LR for your main tank and for your sump. Your gravel. sand/aragonite, LR and your refugium will provide the biological filtration for your aquarium. http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm-this link should help IanB> Thanks! Gregan

Biological Filtration - too much? Hi - your site has been a great source of knowledge for me, and has been invaluable in getting my tank set-up.  I had never realized the benefits of live rock and skimming, but have found them to be a great addition and help for my tank. <Good to hear, forge on!> My current set up is a 75 gallon salt water tank (not drilled) so I am running an Eheim 2229 wet/dry, Remora Pro Skimmer, Magnum canister (I know this is junk, but it is mainly used for some carbon and to drive my 25w UV).  I also am using a Cora-Life 50/50 bulb. I have 45 lbs of Fiji live rock and about a 1/2" of sand.  I am going with a fish-only set up (primarily, but may add a shrimp or two).  I have a Percula and a Three-stripe Damsel, and am going to add a tang and angel - but still TBD. My question is, I want to add another 25-35 lbs of live rock, but was told if I do that, I should not run the wet/dry anymore.  IF I do, I may have too much biological filtration.  Is this possible?  I do not want to cause any problems in the tank, but I was not aware that I could have too much biological filtration. <Me neither, I would add the rock. Another 30-45 would be good> Also, I have a few feather dusters on my rock - do these need any special supplementation for the water to help feed them?  I understand they are filter feeders and was told they do not need any "special" food, but do not necessarily trust my source. <Yes, they are filter feeders> Thanks for the help. <My pleasure, Don> Jason

Intake sponge filter on powerhead as bio-filter I have decided to add a "quick filter" to one of my 802 powerheads in the tank, I will not clean this and it should provide the needed biological boost, would you agree?.... <Should add capacity, after a couple weeks to cycle....it will produce nitrates over time (the product of it's bio-capacity). Have fun!  Craig>

Re: Toxic ammonia levels Hi, Thank you for answering my questions. I have a few questions. I have a 65 gallon marine tank with live rock and a wet/dry system. All is well with this tank but I cannot get the nitrates down below 40 ppm. <Please see here re wet-dry bioballs: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm and here re Nitrates: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/nitratesmar.htm and the FAQs beyond> Also, I have another tank that had been cycled for over three months and has a bio-wheel filter system. I added a gold striped maroon clown and a Bicolored blenny and within a matter of a week the ammonia levels rose and are now beyond toxic range. Does this tank have to go through a cycling process all over again? <It likely never has cycled (completely). Please see here: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm> I was using blue devil damsels to cycle it initially and then returned them when all was cycled. Can I put the gold striped maroon clown in my 65 gallon with two tank raised percula clowns that have been in there for eight months? Also, can I put the Bicolored blenny in the tank with another Bicolored blenny? Thank you for your help, Tim   <Please see WetWebMedia.com re these questions... Plug your organisms names in the search tool on the homepage or indices. Bob Fenner>

This Sponge Is No Fun! I recently changed the sump foam/sponge block that sits in the bottom of my wet/dry filter (just before the water makes it to the pump). Well, without thinking about it, I threw the old sponge out in the trash after I added the new one. About 24 hours later... the ammonia level spiked in my tank. <Yikes! Sorry to hear that!> At this point I have lost my powder brown tang and I am nursing a sick porcupine puffer back to health. This tank has been setup for 1 year and 5 months now. My setup: standard wet/dry 100 gal filter, Prism skimmer, 55 gal fish only tank. So here's my question. Should the foam/sponge block in the bottom of my wet/dry be treated as if it were a big bio ball/block and not removed right away? Example: rinsing it out a bit when it starts to get nasty. Thanks for your time, Steven, Florida <Well, Steven I'm a bit concerned that the system relied so much on the sponge for biofiltration as to have an ammonia spike following it's removal. I think you may want to make a few adjustments to the setup to allow nature to do some of the work for you. I'd consider adding some live rock to your sump or system to accomplish some of the biological filtration. Perhaps the addition of a deep (3 inches or more) live sand bed in the main tank to assist with denitrification. If you want to continue to use a sponge, or other filter media in the sump, clean it very frequently (I mean, like 2 or 3 times a week), so that it does not become a "biological filter", or, for that matter, a source of organic accumulation. By letting nature do some of the work for you, your system will be less susceptible to other traumatic events such as this one in the future. Make these minor adjustments, and I'll bet your system will be back up to speed in no time! Good luck! Scott F>

Re: new tank cycling I had a few more questions. First, when is a tank considered cycled? <when ammonia and nitrite are down to 0, and stay there.> Second,  If know water changes are needed until the tank is cycled then when it is, how often should a water change be performed? <If the ammonia or nitrite gets too high/off the charts, water changes should be performed. Regular partial water changes are good too.> Third, should any chemicals or other forms of additives be added? regularly? <I would not during cycling> Fourth,   Can you do water changes to much when the tank is cycled, if you can what can be the downfalls? <if you kept tearing the tank down and cleaning everything you could slow the build up of bacteria.> Fifth,    I've read that CopperSafe is used a lot for diseases, what do you use if you have inverts in your tank, since CopperSafe kills them? <copper should be used in a separate quarantine tank.> Thanks for you time, been very helpful.. <Hi Justin, check out the links below for a better understanding of the cycling process. http://wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm http://wetwebmedia.com/marine/setup/filtration/biological/biofiltr.htm  > I just need to have some more patience. Justin P.S. Do you have tanks yourself, if so do you have pics? <I have about 8 tanks set up in my house,  mostly freshwater, and a shed full of empty tanks I cannot find room for in my house, yet.  Currently I do not have any pictures of them.  Best Regards, Gage>

Cycling and Recycling... Dear Crew: I'd like to first say how cool it is to find one website with so much information.  It makes things easier for us 'newbies' to the saltwater world to get a warm fuzzy seeing how much there is to know, and that the help is out there. <And we're glad to be here for you! Scott F. here tonight!> I have a few questions all regarding a "new" set up. I recently bought a 125 gal used tank (used for a Cichlid tank) that came with an undergravel filter, an Aqua Clear 500, and crushed coral. Realizing it was good enough to start off with (in order to not spend too much more money). I filled it with saltwater, about 11 damsels, and began the cycling process.  We are now at week 2 and ammonia has kicked up, and I've lost 3 fish. (I was told this was going to happen, which is cool). <Not if you're one of the damsels! Better ways to cycle without fish, BTW...> Last night, I visited 'Bio Reef', and was told that a wet/dry filter was the way to go, if I wanted to keep my fish for a longer period of time. (I currently use a wet/dry in a smaller tank for a used 35 gal freshwater tank). My questions are: 1) I plan to put in the wet/dry as soon as possible, and they tell me to leave the undergravel for a while to continue the biological cycle while the wet dry gets established.  Is this correct? <Debatable- but certainly no harm in doing so...> 2) Should I leave the hang-on AquaClear 500 as well? <I would probably remove it...> 3) Can either the UGF or the hang on filter stay? Along with the wet/dry? <I'd discontinue the UGF as soon as possible. Not the best long-term system in most marine aquariums...> 4) Should I add either live rock, or live sand to my set up? <Both, IMO...Then you can get rid of the bioballs in the wet-dry and really on the natural processes occurring in the rock and sand to do your "filtration" for you! Currently I don't have any specialized lighting other than normal florescent tubes.  I plan to keep the tank as a "Fish only" with a few inverts later on (shrimp, etc) <Not a problem if you're just keeping fish- but if you are ultimately moving towards a reef setup, you'll want to upgrade at some point...> 5)Can I remove the UGF without removing fish? There is a 2-3" layer of crushed coral in the tank now.  If I can, at what point should I do it? <It's kind of a messy process- taking out the substrate, etc....But if you're switching to live sand, you might as well bite the bullet and go for it as soon as you're ready...I'd get the damsels out and bring them back to the LFS. Let the tank cycle with the rock, sand, and time...> If there is anything I am missing please let me know. I don't want any of the current filtration equipment to just sit in my garage if it can help my tank. <The Aquaclear would make a nice filter for your quarantine tank!> Also, I was told not to replace any of the dead damsels since they have to be "used" to the water.. What happens if they all die (unlikely, I  presume.) <Well- I certainly would not add any more fish until cycling is complete- and I'd try to cycle the tank without the damsels altogether, if possible> How much longer until the cycle completes? About 4 more weeks?   <Really hard to say without having monitored it. Also- if you are planning on doing some re-engineering, it could take longer. Now is definitely the best time to re-work this system, before it gets fully established. If you do it right at the start- you won't need to do any more modifications down the line...> Thanks again for your help. I've read a lot of the messages and I could find any that matched my situation.   Ronnie Garcia <Hope that we can point you in the right direction, Ronnie. Do read the FAQs on the wetwebmedia.com site for tons of information on wet-dry filters, sumps, setups, and cycling of marine tanks....you'll really enjoy the content there! Good luck! Regards, Scott F.>

Power filter change question Hello, how are you? <I am doing very well today. How about you?> I want to change my Emperor power filter with an Eheim Liberty. The Emperor has a BioWheel in it. The Liberty that I want to add in its place comes with a bio pad in addition to a carbon cartridge. I have a 29 gallon tank with 25 lbs of live rock and 3" deep live sand. Do I run the risk of getting an ammonia spike if I just take the Emperor out and put the Eheim in? <It is likely you need neither for additional biological filtration. A 29 gallon tank with 25 pounds of liverock, that is stocked appropriately, can probably rely on the rock to do the job of biological filtration.> Should I leave the BioWheel in the tank somewhere for a while until the biopad on the Eheim gets established? <The BioWheel, just laying somewhere, is not going to do much good.> Or should I put the biopad from the Eheim in the tank for a while, then make the switch? <That sounds much better.> Or does any of this really matter? <Probably not> Thanks, Kevin <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

biological sponge filter A good day to all of you great guys! <and a good day to you, my dear> I was reading your daily letter page and saw that I should have a biological sponge filter in my main tank so that I can put it in my infirmary/new fish tank. I don't know what that is, being fairly ignorant (8 months as a fish person). Please tell me what to get and if you have a special favorite or two. <sponge filters are extremely efficient and inexpensive filters that are usually air operated but sometimes run with a small power head. They are capable of handling very high bio-loads and are the filter of choice for fish breeders. The only significant disadvantage is that they are internal and not discreet/pretty. Still... hiding in a corner or the sump they are perfect! Jungle brand "Dirt Magnets" and Tetra "Brilliant" sponges are two fine brands. Their larger/coarser sponges are even better.> Thanks for your help, again. Connie Cavan <best regards, Anthony>

Filter confusion (marine, biological?) Reading article on web with your name on filters. Do you believe that a pressurized filter such as an Aquadyne will work if a good prefilter/vortex is used? I have been hearing so much on filters and there is a lot of disagreement out there. <For what purpose? These filter types and combination are not reasonable, or best for biological systems. Such gear has been tried in commercial settings... and ultimately abandoned as being too unstable, too fraught with difficulties... mainly from a user-failure standpoint. Bob Fenner> thanks, Steve

biological filtration Hi again! I have another question. What would be better for biological filtration, a canister filter like Eheim or a wet/dry with bio balls or any other idea. <There is not many other man-made devices better at biological filtration than a good Wet/Dry filter.> Best regards, Andres Saravia <And to you too! -Steven Pro>

Cell-Pore Bio Cartridge Hi Bob, I'm looking for biofiltration media for my FO tank. Does Cell-Pore BioCartridge work? It claims that "provides over 10 times the available surface area of any other biomedium for power filters --as much as 1200 square feet per BioCartridge", does it true? Compare with Sera's Siporax, which one is more reliable? Thanks for your help. <I really like Siporax... am sure Cellpore does work... perhaps not as well... but still worthwhile. Bob Fenner> Mac

Become a Sponsor Features:
Daily FAQs FW Daily FAQs SW Pix of the Day FW Pix of the Day New On WWM
Helpful Links Hobbyist Forum Calendars Admin Index Cover Images
Featured Sponsors: