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Many Thanks and Bioballs?

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Many, many thanks to the club for the wonderful food and company at Saturday’s picnic; we are looking forward to next year’s visit. Also, many thanks for the gracious donations – the test kits are in good use, and now that we have a light over them, the corals, polyps, and plants, are doing well too.


We thought you might like to know we have begun a very diligent water quality testing routine on the reef tank back in the West Wing area. Here are the results so far:


Phosphate < 0.02, Magnesium 1080 (I’ve begun adding magnesium to the tank), Calcium had dropped to 240 (added calcium), Nitrates 6.3 (I guess for the moment, the nitrate factory went on strike, took a leave of absence, took stimulus funds and went vacationing), pH 8.2, Alkalinity 10dkh, and temperature 78F.


I've begun researching the use, or lack of use of bioballs in the reef tank, and would appreciate any links to credible literature on why bioball use is not a good thing for reef systems. I did however read one article describing a highly beneficial nitrate production -denitrification process that took place on and within the live rock compared to the highly detrimental process of nitrate production - no denitrification process that took place within the location of the bioballs. It seems in the author's mind, nitrates formed from bacteria on the bioballs basically just float around the aquarium (not making their way into the anaerobic, denitrification zones within the crevices of the live rock) and thus building up into one huge alga encouraging, invertebrate destroying mess of nitrates. In simple terms, live rock promotes nitrification AND denitrification (end product nitrogen gas) whereas biological filtration within the bioball media just promotes nitrification (end product nitrates). So, really, excessive nitrification is not the problem (nitrate production is directly related to ammonia-nitrogen production - Do we NOT want all of the ammonia-nitrogen nitrified?) lack of denitrification is the real culprit. Too many nitrates is directly related to too much ammonia-nitrogen and the amount of or lack of denitrification going on within the reef system.


Anyway, we’ve begun working with an Aquarium Science Student on designing a new reef tank system. We are waiting anxiously to see what kind and what level of involvement PNWMAS as a club decides on for the systems. Again, any involvement of any type is always much appreciated by us, please, just keep us filled in on what you all decide to do.


Again, thank you, and keep up the good work!




Dennis Glaze and Dr. Tim Miller-Morgan

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For me the best way to explain it is when using live rock thats all you need along with good water flow and skimmer to get good nitrification and exporting of the nitrate, what happens with the use of bio balls especially if used in a wet dry filter is it is a great neutralizing ammonia and nitrification but produces lots of nitrate which in turn can cause major algae blooms in a fish only system these are great but not recommended for reef systems anymore but to be honest we wouldn't be ware we are today with the use of bio balls and wet dry filters.I also wanted to add I am a believer in a 4-5 inch sand bed to further nitrate export some will disagree and like bare bottom but just depends on what you like as both will work.

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I am not sure on your total system volume, but in lieu of loading up with a ton of live rock, you may also want to investigate a nitrate reactor or vodka and sugar dosing regimen to work on your nitrates

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Great to meet you too, Dennis. I am the teacher that you wanted to talk about for the Tanks for Teachers program. I kept trying to get your ear on the tour, but we were all busy talking about your tanks instead. Send me a PM with your questions and I would be happy to answer for you.



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Hi Dennis,


Good to see things are happening here! I am include the following link http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm


This may only add to the debate, but I think you will see that the majority of reefkeepers have done away with their bioballs. These were considered a requirement for maintaining a reef tank in the late 1980's/early 1990's until the advent of the "Berlin Method" of reefkeeping, which emphasized more effective foam fractionation, removal of biomedia other than liverock (bioballs, bioblocks, biobale, etc.)' and removal of intense growths of macroalgae. Many improvements on skimmers have been made since this time.


I do agree with a heavy bioload being the cause of excess nitrates, rather than the bioballs being the all of the actual cause. I removed the bioballs from my sump over 10 years ago, as they were entirely unnecessary. They may increase surface area for aerobic bacteria growth, but not always more bacteria,

Bioballs are absolutely useless in denitrification. I also noticed the great amount of detritus that accumulated on the surface of bioballs, which would further decrease their usefulness without frequent saltwater rinsing. Excess detritus has been associated with accumulation of nitrate and phosphate. At least one pound of liverock per gallon of water should be sufficient for both nitrification and denitrification.


Systems used now are basically a Berlin Method with an added Refugium http://www.reefland.com/rho/1104/main.php located adjacent to the main aquarium, or in the sump. A refugium containing macroalgae other than Caulerpa would probably be the most efficient for your tanks.


I think many of us would also agree in removal of the Crushed Coral Substrate in the 100 gallon tank. This is even more of a detritus trap! Possibly, a smaller grade sand bed could be added at a later time, along with sand sifters. http://saltaquarium.about.com/od/azinvertebratefamilyp/tp/reeftanksafejanitors.htm


Please do not attempt to add any more invertebrates to the current system until we can work on water quality issues!

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this will be a long debate but I think KRUX is correct for a long term solution for the nitrate problem as a refugium with algae can crash and needs some regular maintence ware the nitrate reactor should do the trick and can be maintained by our visits so one less thing for them to deal with.

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