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Bio-Balls -- Good or bad?


wobble
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I was given a sump (never been used) that has bio-balls in it. I was going to remove the bio-balls and just use the sump for adding water volume and growing some chaeto under my 29g. I've heard bio-balls can be nitrate factories. Should I use them or ditch them?

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They are also work good in the pond setups that I have seen.

 

I wouldnt use them in anything SW.

 

My nextdoor neighbor has a pond. I'll see if he can use them.

 

Thanks guys. The sump is now installed without the bio-balls. My nitrates were fluctuating between 0-5 in my 29g. Now that the sump is installed with some chaeto in there, hopefully they will stay at 0.

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I don't get why you all think that bio balls are bad.....afterall....they are nothing but a place for bacteria to colonize. If kept submerged, they are no different than your glass, your rocks, your sand, your pipes, etc. The main function of bio balls is to provide additional bacterial colonization sites.....just like rock. Bio balls are most useful in systems where little or no live rock exists.....like a fish only or coldwater setup.

 

I use bio balls extensively in my coldwater system since the native rocks are basalt. They also are great for splash and salt creep control in sumps. Bio balls really only have two negatives:

 

1) They can trap detritus and must be occassionally cleaned.

 

2) If used in a dry situation, they can allow the bacterial colonies to rapidly convert NH4 to NO3...... but, that can be said of any media used in a dry situation.

 

There are many uses of bio balls....but, like anything else....they must be used to suit the situation. If kept submerged....and occassionally cleaned...they will have no negative impact on any system and will have a positive impact on systems that lack adequate amounts of traditional live rock.

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Steve postd exactly what I was going to post... if kept completely submerged they serve the same purpose as live rock or sand, and are great for keeping splashing down in the sump. If you use them in a wet-dry application then you need to be careful of the previous couple pages of warnings, but they are far from useless. In a BB system, after your filter sock, they can be a huge asset to keeping bacteria populations up. My future cold water study system will rely heavily on bioballs and oysters for primary filtration, similar to the older cryptic filtration systems for warm water.

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I currently have 40 lbs of LR in the 29g tank, so I don't need any additional bio-media. Removing the bio-balls and using chaeto in the sump instead sounds like it's the best option for my situation. Besides, I don't want the added maintenance of having to clean them regularly.

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THIS IS JUST IN MY OPINION AND EXPERIENCES. When I WAS using Bio Balls I was constantly fighting Nitrate issues. Removed balls.....no more issues. JMEandO

 

 

That would be the case if you allowed detrirus and other debris to collect in the bioballs and rot in there....but....the bioballs themselves did not raise your nitrates. They're only plastic afterall....no different than your sump, pipes or your tank. Lack of maintenance was more likely your issue.

 

Most traditional reef setups (large or small) have no need for bioballs....but, in other type of systems, they are a necessity.....like FO or coldwater. Bioballs are great in these systems and redundant in others.

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I am not disputing this Steve. I have no doubt that it was more than likely my fault. However I do nothing different now than then, but do not have nitrate issues either, all I did was replace Bio Balls with Live Rock Rubble. Sorry if it seemed arguementative, that was not my intention.

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I am not disputing this Steve. I have no doubt that it was more than likely my fault. However I do nothing different now than then' date=' but do not have nitrate issues either. Sorry if it seemed arguementative, that was not my intention[/quote']

 

 

It wasn't necessarily your fault per se....just a mis-application of bioballs. A traditional reef setup with live rock does not need bioballs.....and although using bioballs in a tradtional reef setup will do no harm, they are not maintenance free and can do harm if neglected.

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Thanks Steve and Krux, those were very helpful clarifications. As it turns out, I have been using them for a similar purpose - post filtration in the sump, submerged for anti splash purposes.

 

BTW Steve, I hear you have your cold water setup back! That is one sweet system!

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