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FAQs about Bio-Balls, Wet-Dry Media 1

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

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


Submerged bio balls still nitrate factory?  I am trying to find out why bio balls are considered a nitrate factory. Is it because they are not submerged? <I really don't consider them a "nitrate factory". Some people seem to feel that using them will elevate the nitrate level some, but if proper tank maintenance and weekly 10% waters changes are done, it is not even going to be a factor.>  If they were submerged would that make them more like live rock without as much surface area and nitrate control?  <More benefit is obtained with the bio balls in the dry area of the filter. This sort of separates the water into thin films where the air/water exchange is most beneficial.>  Would dry rock also be nitrate factory if used in wet dry type system and not submerged?  <It would not be very effective to start with used in the dry section of the wet/dry. Mike, in my opinion the bio balls do far more good than harm. James (Salty Dog)>  (I still have boxes of bags of Thiel's bio balls from when he was only supplier of quality saltwater products) Thank You, Mike Petrizzo  <You're welcome> 

Bye-Bye, Bioballs! Hey Crew, hope all your tanks are doing fine! <Scott F., doing well today!> I have a 90 gallon tank with a 20 gallon sump that has been established for 7 1/2 weeks and my Nitrate is slowly rising to a point where my inverts can be affected. Ammonia 0 Nitrite 0 Nitrate 10 - 20 pH 8.2 spg 1.024 temp 26*C AKS venturi skimmer (half a cup every day) 3" sand bed (fine aragonite) & 95# of live rock. 10% water change per week. In my tank I have 2 x 1 ? " clownfish (ocellaris) 1 x 1 ?" regal tang 1 x 1 ?" lawnmower blenny 1 x 1" barrier reef Chromis (2 were taken out due to fighting) 1 x 2" longnose hawkfish 2 x 1" white-striped cleaner shrimp. <A nice mix of animals> I would really like to get my Nitrates to drop to a safe level so is it safe to start slowly taking out my bio balls? What do u think? Also I would like to add more sand. Can I just place it around the live rock or do I have to take it all out and then add the sand? Your help would be much appreciated. Thanks again, Dave. <At this point, Dave, I'd just pour the live sand around the existing rock structure. Shoot for 4 to 5 inches, if you can. I'd pull out the bioballs all at once, myself. Keep working that skimmer- you're getting good production already! Monitor all water parameters during the process>

Removing Bio Balls I have been reading lot about removing the bio balls from my wet/dry filter. I am about 3 months into the cycling of my 72 gal tank. I have added only one fish and several hermits & snails. Is it the right time to remove the bio balls? I also have a question about the drip plate. My drip plate has a piece of removable felt/ filter paper which hangs over the bio balls should I also remove this?  The reason I ask this is because I end up cleaning it once a week because it get clogged up- the same goes for my sponge in the overflow box that covers the inflow tube. Am I helping or hurting the reef by cleaning this once a week. How often do you recommend cleaning these sponges/pads or should I remove them completely & let my protein skimmer do all the work? <If you have enough live rock, around 1-2lbs per gallon, now would be a great time to remove the bio balls.  If this is going to be a fish only tank, I would keep the bio balls.  It would be nice to have the raw water go straight to the skimmer.  Any mechanical filtration in between would need to be cleaned frequently, every couple of days.  Best Regards, Gage>

Removing Bio Balls What the sponges and pads? are they a problem too? If not, How often do you clean them? <I'd remove them and let the skimmer do the work, if you keep them, clean them every couple days. -Gage> Removing Bio Balls I have been reading lot about removing the bio balls from my wet/dry filter. I am about 3 months into the cycling of my 72 gal tank. I have added only one fish and several hermits & snails. Is it the right time to remove the bio balls? I also have a question about the drip plate. My drip plate has a piece of removable felt/ filter paper which hangs over the bio balls should I also remove this?  The reason I ask this is because I end up cleaning it once a week because it get clogged up- the same goes for my sponge in the overflow box that covers the inflow tube. Am I helping or hurting the reef by cleaning this once a week. How often do you recommend cleaning these sponges/pads or should I remove them completely & let my protein skimmer do all the work? If you have enough live rock, around 1-2lbs per gallon, now would be a great time to remove the bio balls.  If this is going to be a fish only tank, I would keep the bio balls.  It would be nice to have the raw water go straight to the skimmer.  Any mechanical filtration in between would need to be cleaned frequently, every couple of days.  Best Regards, Gage>

Point-Counterpoint... Thanks for your time on this. <Our pleasure- we love this stuff! Scott F. here today> I have been doing a lot of research on marine aquariums (books and internet searches) and what I am finding is that there are a number of diametrically opposed views about the aquarium. <Different views? On marine aquarium keeping? Really? LOL> I have read enough articles on WetWebMedia to know what you believe and I would like your opinions on some of these differing thoughts. <Sure- I'd be happy to!> 1) It is a universally accepted principle that aggressive protein skimming is a must (1 cup a day) for nutrient and allelopathy export.  In addition, to successfully grow corals, micro-organisms such as zooplankton, phytoplankton, etc., (whether grown in a refugium, a reactor and/or green water additives) is also a must.  However, protein skimming removes these micro-organisms from the system and there some thought that protein skimming is as harmful as helpful.  The no-protein skimmer belief rests upon refugium/Caulerpa/seagrass and/or clams as a more natural mechanism.  Plus, there are less impellors killing the organisms (including powerheads). <Well, I am of the opinion that a well-tuned protein skimmer is absolutely essential for long term success in closed marine systems. I have heard from a number of people who yanked their skimmers-some have been successful for a while- many have gone back to skimmers. I like to think of the long-term with reef tank maintenance. Skimmers remove many noxious compounds and dissolved organics before they have a chance to degrade water quality. I have yet to see a very successful reef system that has been maintained for years without skimming. I do not consider  one or two years a success...The bottom line on skimmer use, in my opinion, is that if you are going to omit skimming, then you need to compensate somewhere- either with a much lower bioload, very aggressive water change schedule, alternative "filtration" techniques (like Steve Tyree's Sponge/Sea Squirt Cryptic Zone concept, etc.). It is a trade off, and one that I do not feel is worth it. As far as the impellers in pumps destroying valuable plankton is concerned- I have heard a lot of thoughts on this, and, quite frankly, I feel that the threat-although legitimate, is highly overstated. Most reef systems simply don't grow and support large enough populations of plankton for this to be a legitimate concern, IMO. Even with productive refugia and other supplemental systems, I just don't think that the impact is there> 2) To remove allelopathic compounds from the system, weekly carbon changes are suggested.  However carbon also leaches vital trace elements out of the system.  Once again, harmful and helpful. <I am a firm believer in the continuous use of small amounts (like 2-4 ounces per 100 gallons of tank capacity) of high quality activated carbon. Good grades of carbon, such as those offered by Seachem (my personal favorite), Two Little Fishies, or ESV do not leach phosphates into the system. Yes, carbon can remove small quantities of trace elements from the system. However, if you are following one of my other favorite practices in marine husbandry, frequent small water changes- you will be replacing trace elements on a regular basis. In fact, you will probably not experience a deficiency in trace elements if you practice these water changes> 3) Another universally accepted principle is weekly water changes.  When you have a 55 gallon tank, a 10% water swap is no big deal.  When you have a 125 with a 30 gallon refugium and 10 gallon sump, it is a much greater effort, requiring a large garbage can sitting in the living room overnight to allow the salt to fully aerate and mix before doing the swap.  Plus the swap tends to be somewhat stressful on the fish.  I am planning on buying a 300 gallon at the end of the year and turning the 125 into a large DSB/Live Rock sump. A 10% water swap on 425 gallons will be a huge effort! <As a fanatic about regular small water changes, I can tell you that the process is simply not that difficult. One of my systems has about 200 gallons total capacity. I change 5% of the water twice a week. This amounts to 2 10 gallon water changes, which I perform on Wednesday morning before work, and on Sunday mornings (unless the surf is good- in which case it's usually Sunday afternoon!). I will generally mix up the saltwater in a Rubbermaid container about 24-48 hours before, and then perform the change. I also perform minor maintenance tasks, such as a little extra algae scraping (if needed), coral pruning, etc. on Wednesday. This will take about 20-30 minutes to perform. On Sunday, I take a little more leisurely pace, and will clean the skimmer, replace carbon or Polyfilters if needed, change micron socks, or any other little things that have to be done. Maybe it takes about 45 minutes to an hour of pleasant labor. I have always done the additions of new water "manually", by pouring it into the tank from a pitcher. If I really wanted to do it quicker, I'd hook up a Maxijet 1200 powerhead to some 5/8 ID tubing, and "pump in" the replacement saltwater...it's a lot quicker. Frequent small water changes need not be a chore. Rather, look at them as an opportunity to regularly assess the situation in your tank. Anyone who maintains their own garden can relate to the labor involved. It is part of the "price of admission", IMO, and is simply not that difficult. And, when you see the difference in your animals, you'll realize that it's all worth it!> Lastly, I have and read about many a aquarist who has been very successful for years with minimal swaps, minimal effort by maintaining proper trace elements/calcium/alkalinity. <I have to quote Anthony on this: "Even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes!". It's just not something that you'd want to do. We are talking about living creatures here- which require us to provide the highest level of care. Closed systems are just that- closed, and unlike the ocean, do not afford the animals a constant influx of clean water. To those hobbyists who think that water changes are not required, I respond, "You wouldn't let your dog live in the same room for 5 years without cleaning out the waste, would you? Don't do it with your fish!"> 4) Bio-wheels and Bio-balls are sold in virtually all LFS and internet dealers.  They add a tremendous amount of stability to the system but also contribute nitrates because there is no anaerobic area for denitrification. Once again, stability vs. water quality, harmful and helpful. <These media are, in essence- "victims of their own success": They are so good at removing nitrites and ammonia, that they cannot provide a bacterial population to keep up with accumulating nitrate. Yep- it is a tradeoff. Frankly- I like to keep things simple, and use a more natural approach: Let the live rock and sand do your filtering, along with use of macroalgae in refugia, and protein skimming, water changes, and regular use of carbon and/or PolyFilter media.> 5) Allelopathy is another subject, not discussed at LFS trying to make a sale.  Some people claim that pictures of beautiful coral displays that are all over the internet will be very different a year from now because of allelopathy and others claim success for years in spite of pictures showing many corals side by side, touching each other.  Another subject in dispute. I have purchased very aggressive corals (not knowing better at the time).  I have multiple leathers, Ricordea mushrooms, 5" genitor, frogspawn, colt and bubble corals.  Is this a toxic soup, a ticking time bomb, or as others claim, no big deal. <Well, I would not call it a ticking time bomb, but it is not an ideal situation. This is an aggregation of animals that are rarely, if ever found in close proximity to each other on natural reefs, so there will be a certain amount of allelopathy. However, these animals can be maintained together in a certain "stand off" with use of aggressive nutrient export mechanisms (the aforementioned skimming, water changes, and use of chemical filtration media). It's much more ideal to develop a stocking plan that utilizes animals that live together in nature. However, as we often state, this is a closed system that we're talking about. It can be done-and done with some possible success, but it is not ideal. I have seen many successful "garden" reef systems over the years, so I can't say that it's not possible to do this. just not recommended!> As I plan for a big expansion of my system, these are the thoughts that come to mind.  Natural (refugium/Caulerpa/seagrass and/or clams) vs. mechanical (protein skimming).  I currently have both.  Is chemical filtration needed? <I believe that a "natural" approach, with a few technical props (skimming and chemical media) is the best approach for most systems> Are water swaps absolutely mandatory, which would dampen my enthusiasm for a larger tank.  Would removing some of the aggressive corals reduce the allelopathy problems or would the bigger tank mitigate them? <Yes, removing some of the aggressive corals could help, as would reducing the proximity between corals. However, it is still important to change water. I would have to say that it's mandatory! Please understand that it just is not that daunting a task...Small amounts often is not that difficult!> Long email.  Apologies.  Thanks for the time. <My pleasure! These were some excellent, thought-provoking questions that have stimulated many a late-night fish nerd conversation at a MACNA conference! I hope that you will be in this year's MACNA in Louisville so that we can discuss these things in more detail! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

-Cell pore and coral book recommendations- Ok I got rid of the bio balls and now I have another question. Along with all the live rock I got I also received a 9x9x3 block of cell pore. I had a hard enough time of placing all the live rock in my tank let alone to try to hide the block of cell pore. Could I put the cell pore in my sump where my bio balls were? <If you did, it would be just like popping the bio-balls back in! I'd ditch the cell-pore, they're great bio-filters but if you pile live rock on it, you can expect it to become a big detritus trap.> I am unclear as to where the cell pore needs to be placed. Please tell me that it would be ok to place it there as I already have. <Place it in the trashcan! :p  > Only been in there a day so far. And also my girlfriend would kill me if I tell her that she has to rearrange the live rock again. <Ahh, that's why it's nice dealing out the advice, don't have to worry about the consequences!> That is her job along with picking out future inhabitants. Can you recommend a good coral book so I may identify some of the things I have in my tank. The seller wasn't sure of all of the names of the corals he gave me. <Absolutely! Eric Borneman's book Aquarium Corals (aptly named!) is the best one volume coral book out there. Julian Sprung's Corals: a quick reference guide is great for ID's, but that's about it.> Thanks <Good luck! -Kevin>

-Bio balls, water quality, and stocking- Hi, I have several question for you.  I have a 75 gallon saltwater f/o tank with no live rock.  I have been reading on your site about how using bio-balls can cause lots of nitrates.  Can you recommend any type of media that the bio filter can build on that will not cause this problem and does not have to be replaced often? <In a fish only tank nitrates are not a problem unless they get excessively high. For you to remove your bio balls all together (any other material in a similar environment will do the same thing) you would need to have the tank stocked up with live rock and preferably live sand.> Also I would like to know if it is OK to rinse filter media on occasion? <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.> If so, would it be better to do it with well water since it does not have the chlorine my regular water does? <It's the freshwater that would kill the bacteria, to a lesser degree the chlorine. Always rinse stuff that you want to leave biologically intact in tank water.> Next I need advice on stocking.  I currently have a pair of ocellaris clowns?  My plans for the future are a flame hawkfish, a bi-color Dottyback and a dwarf angel.  Please tell me in what order I should place them in the tank. <I'd put in the angel, then the Dottyback, and lastly the hawk. Good luck! -Kevin> Thanks for your help, James

-Ditching bio-balls- Hello all at wetwebmedia... I wanted to check with you guys in regards to the possibility of removing the bioballs from my wet/dry filter. <Sure, Kevin here with ya today> After searching through the WWM database I can see it is a good idea to remove them (bioballs) since they can become a nitrate factory. My nitrates range between 20-40ppm, <Acceptable in a FO setup> and I am only getting diatoms/brown algae that I clean up regularly-not tons of it, mostly on the front-back panel (S am also doing a 5 gallon water change each week with plans to increase that to 10g per week). Nuisance algae has not been a serious issue so far (I assume due to water flow rate).  Tank has been up and running since May 9th 2003. My predator setup is a 157g (72x18x28) 1/2 inch custom made acrylic tank with 50lbs of live rock( covered in coralline from a previous tank), a 2 inch thick Fiji pink sandbed, 3 clusters of brown /green button polyps, some hermit crabs, and 1 Blueline trigger(5-6 in), 1 niger(4-5) and 1 blackpatch(4-5 inches). Main pump is an Iwaki 40 RLXT, 3 Maxi jet powerheads, a Euroreef CS6-1skimmer in the wet/dry, and an Aquanetics UV sterilizer.  My objective is to grow some macro algae in the wet/dry-sump area to absorb some of the nutrients, but due to space limitations I wanted to know if it would be a good idea to move all bioballs in the overflow area and keep them submerged there? <I would just ditch them all together, you should be fine.> If I run an airstone or oxygenate the water with a powerhead, would that be enough to compensate for the trickle effect? I  assume that if the bioballs are completely submerged, there will be less input of oxygen in the water.  Another concern is if the existing live rock will be enough to sustain the 3 trigger/invert bioload in case I remove the bioballs completely? <I think so> I plan on keeping these fish as long as they last or at least for several yrs in case they grow too big for this tank. I also wanted to give them as much space as possible (i.e Blueline gets a bit aggressive at feeding time) that is why I have not added more LR. <Provided you are not overfeeding or adding any more fish, you should be good to get rid of the balls! -Kevin> Thanks in advance....

Playing With Bioballs... Hi, I was recently doing some reading on bio balls.  The article said that they produce lots of "good" bacteria and in turn produce lots of nitrates. <Well, they do grow beneficial nitrifying bacteria profusely! The unfortunate part is that, while bioballs excel at fostering bacteria that break down ammonia and nitrite, they tend to accumulate nitrate (the "end product" of biological filtration). The bacteria are sooo efficient at breaking down the nasties that the nitrate accumulates quite rapidly. Nitrate is not harmful, in and of itself, but the level of nitrate in your tank gives you a good idea as to the overall water quality of the system.> I am confused.  I always thought that no matter what type of bio filter media was used, that the "good" bacteria only grew in proportion to size of the tank's bio-load.  Please explain.  Thanks, James <Well, you've got it right, James. You can read some much more detailed descriptions of the denitrification process and the role of bioballs on the WWM site. Regards, Scott F> James Hall

Bioballs: Pros and Cons... I would like to ask about the necessity of "bio balls" in my 500 l overflow system. What are the pros and cons of these bio balls compared to using my existing coral chips? Hope you can comment on that as well. Regards, Edwin <Well, Edwin, the use of bio-balls, coral chips, or any other media that serve as a base for nitrifying bacteria is certainly standard practice within the aquarium hobby, particularly in fish only or FOWLR tanks. Media like bio-balls, which allow water to trickle over them (as in "trickle filter") are outstanding at breaking down ammonia and nitrite into nitrate, but come up short when it comes to breaking down nitrate, Systems that utilize bio-balls and other similar media often incur accumulations of nitrate. Keep in mind that nitrate is not, in and of itself, a problem, but the level of nitrate in the water tends to serve as a "yardstick" by which we can measure overall water quality. By reducing nitrate, you will usually have better water quality, and less likelihood of nuisance algae outbreaks. I tend to favor a more "natural" approach, and do not use the plastic filter media. Instead, I let my system's sump function as a "water processing center", where the skimmer and any chemical filter media, such as activated carbon and Poly Filter, can be located. Denitrification takes place within the tank itself, in live rock or in the deep sand bed I have installed. This combination is as simple as it is formidable! I have used this technique in a number of systems, and have enjoyed consistently high water quality in a variety of scenarios, ranging from fish only tanks to full blown reefs. Do a little reading on the WWM site about nitrate and nutrient control, and you'll find tons of ideas that you can use to make your tank run great! Good luck! Regards, Scott F>

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 Submerged Bio-balls Hello to all.   First of all, thanks for all of your help. Your information is greatly appreciated. Here's my dilemma.  I have a 120 gal tank that has pretty much completed its cycle. I currently have 60 lbs of live rock in there now.  I have an Aqua Medic Turboflotor Protein Skimmer in the sump of my Amiracle Wet/Dry filter. Unfortunately, the pump that came with this skimmer is not extremely powerful.  It won't take in enough water into the skimmer chamber if the water in the sump isn't deep enough. Don't get me wrong, it does function but I have to keep the valves on the skimmer shut all the way. If I don't do this then the water just exits through the 2 return pipes as opposed to rising into the collection cup.( I hope I haven't confused you).  I've noticed that the more water I add to the sump, the better the protein skimmer performs.  I would like to just add another gallon of water to my sump permanently but that would mean that about 4 inches of bio balls would be submerged constantly.  Could the cause a problem or should I give this a try.  Demetrius <I would try it, it's worth it to get your skimmer working properly. These aren't the best skimmers, if and when you get some extra cash, you might think of upgrading the skimmer and perhaps more live rock.  In the meantime, don't worry about the bioballs.  Craig>

- Sink the Bioball - Hello to all. <Good morning, JasonC here...>  First of all, thanks for all of your help. Your information  is greatly appreciated. Here's my dilemma.  I have a 120 gal tank that has pretty much completed its cycle. I currently have 60 lbs of live rock in there now. <Consider doubling that as soon as you can.> I have an Aqua Medic Turboflotor Protein Skimmer in the sump of my Amiracle Wet/Dry filter. Unfortunately, the pump that came with this skimmer is not extremely powerful. It won't take in enough water into the skimmer chamber if the water in the sump isn't deep enough. Don't get me wrong, it does function but I have to keep the valves on the skimmer shut all the way. If I don't do this then the water just exits through the 2 return pipes as opposed to rising into the collection cup.( I hope I haven't confused you). <Not so far...> I've noticed that the more water I add to the sump, the better the protein skimmer performs.  I would like to just add another gallon of water to my sump permanently but that would mean that about 4 inches of bio balls would be submerged constantly.  Could the cause a problem or should I give this a try. <It should not cause a problem, and you could give it a try - you might also want to experiment with your sump design, perhaps adding a weir, or spill-over wall that makes the water level in one end of the sump very consistent, and put the skimmer there.> Demetrius <Cheers, J -- >

Removal of bio balls Hello!  I have an AMiracle wet/dry. A 75 gal tank. With 50 lbs. of live rock. 1" of crushed coral for substrate. I want to utilize my live rock as my only bacteria medium and do away with the bio-balls.  I think it is called a Berlin style aquarium.  Will the 50 lbs. of live rock do? <should be fine, I might add a little more, somewhere around 1lb of rock per gallon.  Maybe you could squeeze some into the wet dry?> Should I or could I add live sand? <You could, but I would not your substrate is already at 1", any higher could start to cause problems.> 1 Royal Gramma 1 Firefish/Dartfish and 1 lawnmower blenny.  4 soft corals 1 anemone and an assortment of crabs and snails.  The tank is 3 mos. old.  I have already taken out half of my bio balls. I am curious for your suggestions. <just make sure to test for ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate during this process to make sure everything is going well.> By the way I love your sight and am anxiously awaiting the arrival of "The conscientious marine aquarist" that I just ordered online. <A great read, you will not be let down.  Best Regards, Gage>   George

Ready To Remove His (BioBalls? I have been doing a lot of reading on your wonderful site here. <Glad you find it enjoyable! we love bringing it to you! Scott F. with you today!> But I have to ask: Here is what I have. 55gallon reef 4 inch DSB 50 lbs of live rock maybe a bit more 2 clowns 2 cardinals 1 pygmy angel 1 Pseudochromis various inverts and cleanup crew and soft corals and polyps dual 175 watt MH lighting WETDRY filter feed once daily use RODI water Now I do not want to run into an algae problem or high nitrates...currently I have no nitrates but am experiencing a nasty algae time.  I do have some sunlight in the room in the morning but just bought less transparent curtains today to get rid of that.  My question really lies in the wet/dry.  It consists of an overflow with prefilter, a foam pad on trickle plate and bio ball chamber.  I am thinking and from what I have read I should ditch it and just make it a sump.  Will this help with the algae? <Well, it will help with the nuisance algae in that it will help eliminate accumulations of nutrients that contribute to their growth, the most obvious being nitrate. However, the prefilter is a huge source of organic accumulation that can dramatically contribute to nutrient excesses in closed systems.> Should I get rid of the foam and prefilter? <Personally, I'd get rid of the foam and prefilter myself, for the reasons stated above, and even more important, due to the simple fact that we tend to neglect their regular maintenance and eventual need for replacement. If you are super-conscientious, and clean these materials very frequently (I'm talking every other day, or even more often!), and replace them completely when necessary- you could continue their use. But, if you're like most of us mortals, you may go a few days (or even weeks!) without paying attention to the foam and prefilter...This can lead to accumulations of detritus and organics which can degrade the water quality and lead to unwelcome algae outbreaks...> If so how quickly should I do this?  Will my tank suffer negatively during or after this change or will it be all positive? <As far as removing the bioballs is concerned, I'd remove them rather quickly, especially if you have an established deep sand bed to "pick up the slack". There may be some measurable, temporary increase in ammonia or nitrite (unlikely in my experience, though), so be prepared to execute emergency water changes if needed. Monitor basic water chemistry parameters carefully and regularly during this process. In my experience in executing these types of "Bioball removal" procedures, I have not experienced any problems... This does not mean that you won't have any- but I think that if you do, they could be death with quickly and efficiently should any arise. Overall, your tank will benefit tremendously, IMO. Good luck with the transition! Regards, Scott F>

Ready To Remove His Bioballs (Pt. 2) Scott or whoever is on duty: <Ya got Scott F. today!> Well I am following your advice and the similar opinions I have read in other research.  I ordered myself some plexi to turn the wet/dry into a refugium.  Won't be very large but very little bit counts right? Hey- I think that it will have some positive impact on the system as a whole...Sure, it's worth it!> Fairly cheap job, plexi and other materials less than $5 in my area.  I started removing bio balls several days ago and will remove the rest tonight. Between that and the reduced morning light in the room from darker shades, I think I am seeing an improvement in clarity this week.  I also adjusted my lighting.  It was on from 9am to 10pm with each light (there are two bulbs) being off for about and hour at different times in the day.  Now I have them come on an hour later, and off ? hour earlier with no off time during the day.  My polyps and flowerpot wont have to open and close during the day now.  (Ya I know the flowerpot is very hard, and I must admit I was an uninformed buyer on that one and trusted my normally informative LFS.  But after 2 months the thing is doing awesome, always open, feeds, no receding that I can tell from its base.  Fingers crossed).  Off topic there and forgot what I was saying...  I am fairly good at cleaning my prefilter, at least once a week but not the foam, so it is out the door, once I get the refugium going.  (Hopefully tonight or tomorrow night.) <A good idea, ditching the foam...If not religiously cleaned and/or replaced, these types of media are full-on nutrient traps...> Looking forward to getting this locked down and buying some new frags.  As for the removal of algae,  I use a turkey baster to baste it with water than suck as much out, what I miss - will the clean up crew eat from the sand?   <Depending on the animals that comprise the "cleanup crew", you'll see some of this stuff munched down by someone...Try to get as much as possible, though> It is a dark green to black color, I think it is slime algae. I have an emerald, blue and red hermits, Turbos, another kind of snail that the name escapes me now, a sally, sandsifter, and brittle star. <Keep looking for the source of the algae (i.e; excess nutrients, such as phosphate, nitrate, etc. Re-visit husbandry...protein skimming, water changes, etc. to get to the source here> I also have an Atlantic pygmy angel.  Is it an omnivore, herb, or carnivore? <I'd say that it would be an omnivore, with a high percentage of vegetable matter in its diet...Provide a mixed diet of things like Mysis, "Formula" foods, Gracilaria macroalgae, etc.> I feed my tank formula 1 and sometimes 2, frozen brine, silversides for the cleanup and LTA, and krill. (not all in one day, I try to vary the diet of my animals)  The angel eats a little of everything it seems and picks at algae on the rocks.  Sounds ok right? <Right on target, bruddah!> Will my tank be ok for several hours why I shut down the wet/dry to make changes?  I will leave lights on and power heads (4 of them) going in the tank for movement. <Should be fine...Keeping the water movement going is a good idea...minimize disruption to the overall environment as much as you can...> Thanks again and you guys rock. Matt <No, dude- YOU rock! I think that you're really going to enjoy the "upgrades" to your system...just keep a close eye on things, expect a glitch or two (par for the course, as they say...)in the process, but overall, everything should be fine! Good luck Regards, Scott F.>

Bio-Ball & Lighting Question 3/3/03 Hi guys,<Hey there!  Phil here!> I forgot a couple of questions I had on my last email to you. Sorry! I removed all of my bio balls out of my wet/dry the other day. I am one month into my new 55 gallon tank. I am planning on adding 20 more lbs of live rock to my existing 36 lbs. I have no fish yet and am working on figuring out a Cyano problem.<the number one way to remove Cyano is to get a skimmer and remove nutrients from the water.> I am getting my tap and tank water professionally tested to get an accurate water quality reading. I removed my bio balls to prevent possible nitrate buildup (will have live rock do the job instead).<This is fine, please remember that the tank will have to cycle all over again because you are adding more live rock.> I was thinking of replacing the bio balls with some inexpensive small live rock pieces which I am told is ok but realized that they will be wet in the wet dry but will have no lighting on them...is this live rock replacing bio balls still a good idea or can you recommend a better alternative ??<This is fine.> I do not want a refugium right now. <I know what you mean, they can be difficult to understand.> Also, I was running my two URI VHO ( one white and one purple actinic) bulbs (I don't know the wattage but the bulbs are 32 inches long).<Probably less than 20 watts>  I was running them 12 hours a day this past month, the tank's first month in existence. My local fish store said that the VHO's are powerful and that I should only run them 6 hours a day and that the fact that I had them on for so long could be a contributing factor to my brown slime algae problem. Do you have any guidance on the duration of my particular lights in regards to discouraging slime algae?<I think this is total rubbish!  I talked to Ananda and she told it to me really simply.  "As the lights age, their color changes, going towards the spectrum that algae really like." Try getting a good protein skimmer, this will help stop the algae.  Hope this helps!  Phil>

Re: Bioballs vs. LR in sump My reading here has lead me to start removing most of the bioballs from my wet/dry.  I'm doing it slowly and only have a little left.  Is it ok to replace them with live rock? <Yes> They would be under the drip place and not totally submerged in water.  Does LR need to be submerged? <Better if so>   Is there a difference between types of LR? <Yes. You can read about this on WetWebMedia.com> Isn't this what a sump system is about? <Mmm, don't know if I'm following you. You can also see our input re sumps, refugiums posted on WWM. Bob Fenner> Thanks......Mike

Sugar based calcium and bio-balls. Hi guys. <Hi Charlie, Don with you tonight> I have a couple of questions. First, while browsing your FAQs on bio-balls I stumbled upon a reference to sugar based calcium supplements by SeaChem to promote coralline algae which is something I very much want to do. Looking at SeaChem's site I found "Reef Calcium" which is described as using a glucose base. Reading the product description I found that they suggest using it with "Reef Advantage Calcium". When, in your opinion, is it desirable to use both in a system? <Reef Calcium is a liquid that is 'sugar' based calcium. Reef Advantage Calcium is a powder that is mixed with fresh or RO/DI water. I use Reef Calcium primarily for curing live rock when I need to 'boost' the coralline growth. I do not use this in the my display tank. I use Reef Advantage Calcium as a supplement to Kalkwasser additions to maintain the calcium level I want in the main tank. I also use this to bring up new salt water to levels I want.> My second question concerns your un-favorite filter element, bio-balls. I just installed a brand new Aqua Medic Turboflotor 1000. When I opened the box I found that the kit includes a small post skimming outflow box filled with bio-balls. (This is not shown on the box, the instructions or their web site - I checked.) This box has a pair of input ports high on one side which clamp to the outflow tubes of the skimmer. Outflow tubes attach to low set ports on the opposite side of the box insure that the box functions as a small trickle bubble filter. From the FAQs, just the FAQs (I couldn't resist) concerning bio-balls I'm torn between removing them to avoid another nitrate source and keeping them as a fine to coarse bubble converter, which they do nicely. So, keep or toss? And if toss, what to do about the fine bubbles that find their way out of the skimmer? (The T1000 design isn't very good about screening bubbles from the outflow, a small nuisance.) Using a sponge instead, as I've seen on a more expensive brand, simply replaces one nitrate source with another, no? <Yes, the to me  the sponge would be much easier to clean. Maybe adding additional baffles to the sump would help as well. Hope this helps> Regards, Charlie H.

- Bioballs in the Overflow - Hey there- <Hello, JasonC here...> I have an AGA 125 gallon reef tank with a good amount of fish and plenty of soft, LPS and stony corals.  I have about 200 lbs of live rock, 120 lbs sand as well as an ecosystem filter and an aqua clear protein skimmer rated for 150 gallons.  My overflows are currently filled with bio-balls to reduce noise in the overflows.  I would like to take the bio balls out and install Durso standpipes in each overflow so that there is even less noise, less nitrate production and less waste buildup (the bioballs catch a lot of detritus even though I keep filter floss in the overflow).  Are the bio balls supporting a significant amount of bio load or is the rock, skimmer and refugium doing most of the work. <Probably not a significant part, but it's a safe bet there's something in there... I would just remove the bioballs in small amounts - a handful a day.> If I take the bio balls out, will my tank go into shock, or have an ammonia spike? <Just go slowly to be safe.> Would you recommend the Durso standpipe? <I just bought one myself, and have built them from scratch in the past... is a good design.> Should I remove the bio balls slowly or maybe do one overflow at a time? <Remove a little at a time from both overflows - I doubt there's going to be an issue, we're just staying on the safe side, right?> Also, my drain plumbing right now is done through flex drain hoses, but one side is so close to the sump that it creates a loop and sucks air in ever 30 seconds or so.  Can i plumb the overflows directly into the sump with flexible PVC? <Sure.> Thank you for your help as always Josh <Cheers, J -- >

Getting Rid of Blue (Bio)Balls! I currently use wet dry system. Looking at your site I am going to take my balls (Ha got ya - the bio balls!) If you weren't careful that could have hurt. <The imagery is horrifying. Scott F with you tonight> Anyway the wet dry system will now just be a sump (Holding skimmer, UV, use for sump for dosing etc... Here's the question: I want to also do a refugium. I am thinking of using a 20 gallon acrylic tank, pump water from sump to refugium then allow water from refugium flow back into the sump freely (via gravity - no pump). Does this sound correct? <Actually, the refugium should have it's water flow into the main tank, which would receive some of it's benefits, such as the incidental phytoplankton or amphipods that grow and multiply in the refugium, and flow into the main system to provide a supplemental food source> Refugium would be lighted (12 hrs or 24x7?) What's best in a refugium, mud or sand? <Really depends on what you're attempting to propagate in the refugium. A course substrate tends to favor the growth of amphipods, while finer substrates encourage copepods, and even finer substrates can foster enhanced denitrification processes. I'd get a copy of Anthony's "Book of Coral Propagation" for more information on refugium configurations and implementation> My LFS said he thought this would work although he thinks in strange for getting rid of my balls (in wet dry that is). <I like the idea of dumping the bioballs! Let the live rock and sand in your system do the denitrification work> He also told me to get rid of UV and Skimmer if going refugium. At this point i told him he was nuts and laughed. <I would not run a system without a skimmer> I left in a kind way as I pointed out that almost all of his salt water fish in all tanks had ich, he politely told me his salinity got high. <That's a weird explanation for a parasitic disease!> Glad I have only bought dry goods there and not my fish, thanks to the internet. <I'll say> Anyway I should still use the UV and Skimmer correct? <I would> Surely you still skim. Any other hints in regards to refugium you can give or if I'm all off base please yell at me to stop before I get all carried away. <Lose your (bio)balls, but keep the skimmer!> Thanks again. And very much thanks for your site. Steve <And thank you for stopping by! Regards, Scott F>

Wet dry conversion Running a wet dry with bio balls and everything looks and tests fine. I am going to be adding some corals and in reading you site and a few others I see I should not use bio balls. I have live rock and sand, plenty of each. All the local stores think I'm crazy for even thinking of taking out the bio balls. Here's the question or questions would be better. Take out bio balls, do you then just use the wet dry as solely a sump area or do you replace the balls with something? <Possibly... to a refugium. You can read about these on WWM.> It didn't look like you do but I want to make sure I do this right. Also do you continue to use the prefilter on the trickle area of the wet dry and the still use the prefilter on the tube in the overflow box? <In the overflow yes, but not the pre-filter in the trickle box... unless you want the added maintenance of often (perhaps daily) cleaning, replacement> Do you continue to use the polishing foam block in the wet dry system? <Yes, or perhaps I should state "likely", to keep larger solids out of your pump and more> I use a UV, skimmer, powerheads but do I need to run any other type of filtration when (not if) I do this? At what rate do I remove the bio balls? <Likely no other filtration necessary or advised. You can remove half per week... as in all over a period of two or so weeks. Bob Fenner> Thanx, Steve

On The Ball? (Bioballs) Hi again, Hi there! Scott F. with you today!> I am stilllllllllll in the planning mode for purchasing my new aquarium and am driving myself NUTS trying to figure out what I want. <Sounds like a U2 song....> My question for today is this:  I have read back and forth on the pros/cons of bioballs in a wet/dry filter.  What is the general consensus from the crew at WWM?  Good or bad .. would you or wouldn't you? <Well, I can only speak for myself, but I can tell you that bioballs are a highly efficient biological filtration media. They harbor countless nitrifying bacteria, which serve to break down waste products. The down side is that they tend to be very good at breaking down ammonia and nitrite, but accumulate nitrate (the end product, if you will- of the biological filtration process). I feel that we work hard enough trying to keep our systems as "clean" and free of excess nutrients as possible, so I tend not to favor the bioballs. If it were me, I'd rely on the natural processes occurring in live rock and deep sand beds to do the job! That's my two cents worth!  For fish only tanks, some people like them...I say- go natural! Hope this helps! Regards, Scott F> thanks as always, Jesse

Giving those plastic biomedia the heave-ho Hi Bob, I have talked with you last week about removing the bio balls from my 130g Fowl's sump, took them out as you suggested, seen a drop in nitrates as i mentioned in another email, but cant figure out why i get a bacteria bloom (tank goes cloudy) every time i toss the floss in the sumps main tray, it clears up overnight but when i  toss each piece every 2 days its all white murky, along with that 220 pounds of live rock and a so-so skimmer (old AMiracle, pulls out a cup o crap daily though), I use a piece of floss as i have some messy fish and assume i need it (every 2 days it has a lot of junk) the tank has less fish then when i tossed the balls (now contains a 3 inch Picasso trig,4 inch red coris wrasse (your fave and mine),4 inch blue angel, 4 inch blue tang, 2 inch tomato clown and 4 urchins, I assume i do not have enough biological filtration now?, <Think you're right here.> should i leave an AquaClear sponge attached to the intake of my return pump (submerged in the sump, Laguna pond pump) and scram the floss (little idea i had for controlling bubbles in the tank as well), any thoughts?, something is amiss with blooms like this....thanks.....Riot... <If it were me, my system, I'd use "two sheets" of filter material (batting, Dacron from the yardage store), and just lift off the top one, replace it with a new sheet under the older one... so that there's always an "old" one in the system. Bob Fenner>

Re: (Bob).....bio balls... (Got to get rid of my AC/DC records) Hi Bob, I've been chatting with Jason in regards to hair algae prob.s, was thinking, on reading your W/D FAQ's a while back, I pulled about 3/4 of the bio balls out of my FOWLR system, was a little scared to toss em all, but did notice a reduction in nitrates (were always around 40ppm,now between 10-20ppm),want to know if you would pull the last, my tank is a 130g, 40g wet/dry, getting a cup o black daily from my skimmer, have 4 802 powerheads and 2 airstones for circulation around my 220 pounds or so of live rock (mainly Fiji, Florida, some indo),1/2 inch crushed coral, filter floss in the tray of the wet/dry that i assume i will need to keep without the bio balls for mech. filtration (i toss every few days), carbon as well i toss every 4-5 days, animals are: 3 inch Huma trigger 5 inch red coris wrasse 4 inch Naso tang 4 inch regal tang 4 inch blue angel 5 inch volitans lionfish 2 inch tomato clown a long spine and pencil urchin the Naso and lion and angel are going to go to a friends 500g tank as they get larger, possibly replaced with a yellow or purple tang and a flame angel but that's down the road. <I would pull the rest of the bio-balls. They're not doing you, your system any good> i change around 20g weekly  with IO salt or Tropic Marin (have lots of both), I would not add live rock to the sump as i don't see the diff. with just having it in the tank instead where it can be seen, maybe add a small florescent tube light (type that comes with a 20g tank kit) to the sump, <Good idea> i have read people use this at night i guess to help ph drops?, <Along with algae growing, such reverse daylight photoperiod regimens do indeed help stabilize water chemistry> what would you do in my shoes, don't want to try a DSB if i don't need to here, will just keep the bio balls if this plan wont work the way I'm asking, does such a tank as mine need bio balls or am i being chicken for no reason?, one more thing possibly off my list for the hair algae prob, thanks again WWM.......Riot.. <I would continue your investigations, try removing the bioballs, illuminating the wet-dry sump... consider turning it into a refugium. Bob Fenner>

Do I really need to remove my Bioballs? Hi; do I really need to remove the Bioballs from my sump?  I keep reading that Bioballs are not desirable.   <Hi Jon, I'm not a big fan of bioballs, because they produce nitrates and have no anaerobic capacity to process nitrates like live rock and live sand.> We have a 125 gallon reef tank, and a 40 gallon sump/refugium "see attached picture for sump setup please". We have about ten small fish; like clowns, gobies, and blennies with plans on getting a couple more.  We have two anemones, a couple of crabs, a few stars, and various corals.  We also have about three inches of live sand and 45 to 50 pounds of live rock, and we only plan on getting about 10 to 15 pounds more of LR.  Our sump/refugium has 7.5 pounds of Bioballs in it, a little live rock, and some green algae plants.  The six pounds of the Bioballs on the left are kept in the dark, are fully submerged, and have a bubbler providing air to them.  The remaining Bioballs that are on the right side are exposed to light.  We also do a forty gallon water change every other week.  I know what LR, LS, and Bioballs do as far as breaking down ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate.  My first question is; is it good to have the 7.5 pounds of Bioballs that we have in our sump since we have so little LR per gallon of water?   <I don't like it because the LR may not be sufficient to process the nitrates produced by the bioballs. The DSB is good, but in this respect the more area in LS, LR, the better.> Is it all right to have the Bioballs setup the way we do?  I figured that having some of them in the light and having the remainder of them in the dark would produce different types of bacteria. <No, the bacteria is the same no matter, but the light may contribute to algae growth in the presence of nutrients.> Plus what is the best temperature for a reef tank? <This is a decision based on many factors, inhabitants, various conditions and opinions.  I run my tanks at 79-80F, some aquarists prefer the 70's.> And finally; should we remove our Bioballs altogether? Thank you so much, Jon Bredensteiner <Personally, I would remove the bioballs, replace them with LR and enjoy changing the water a bit less. My money is on reduced nitrates overall by removing them.  Hope this helps!  Craig>

Increasing Bioball efficiency Hello WWM crew, <Hey Robert> I have been reading your FAQs on Bioball topics and it looks like submerged bioballs are a "no no". <Far more efficient just "moist"> Our sump design has 2 compartments with bioballs that are all submerged, with Miracle Mud and macro algae in one middle compartment (which should take care of the nitrate issue).  Since exposing bioballs to air is the proper way of utilizing them, will adding airstones on the Bioball compartments help with their efficiency ? <Yes. In years past (most culture and wholesale livestock facilities that used to use this technology have switched to fluidized beds>, employed a sort of air-blowing technology up through their media (with the water falling down in the same area). Bob Fenner> Thanks for all your great help, Robert   

- Removing Bio Balls - Hello, it's me again  :) <Hi Steve, it's JasonC here... I hope you don't mind that I'm replying to your second email. It would seem some progress was made since then.> I'm the guy that wants to convert his trickle filter sump into a refugium. <Yes sir... been doing my reading ;-) > Reason for this move is that my nitrate levels have been rising over the past year (tank is 2 years old with a lot of live rock, some corals and about 10 fish) <Makes sense.> The biological filter (live rock/sand) is definitely capable of handling the nitrifying process to a certain extent so I didn't feel the need to have this enormous amount of bio balls in my trickle filter. <Well... do recall that the bio balls are currently part of your biological filter so... to what extent can you live without them? You'd better remove only a handful at a time.> I just removed them all and put some egg crate and a sheet of vinyl with holes in it (formerly used to separate fighting fish in quarantine).  I bent it so that it forms an inverted "U" and takes up all the space the bio balls took up, so that the trickle water doesn't stream down into the sump and make a ton of noise.  Now it just cascades down this sheet of porous plastic into the sump... noiseless but with a decent amount of oxygen exchange so it seems. <Sounds good so far, except for the bulk removal of those bio balls... hopefully the de-nitrifying bacteria in the live rock will take over quickly.> Anyway, I am now rethinking the conversion of this trickle filter to a refugium, because it seems it'd be a huge pain to re-plumb these 1 1/2" vinyl tubes into some sort of fixture on the right side of the sump, with filter pads to filter the oils, etc from the main tank prefilter. <Ok.> I am building a semi-clone of an "EcoSystem-Miracle Mud" refugium out of a ten gallon tank (due to space limitations in cabinet next to tank) The ten gallon refugium is a glass tank.  I'll need to have bulk heads drilled into it for the inflow of water (which will be pumped from a separate pump in the main tank's sump).  The outflow back to the sump will be gravity fed by drilling a bulk head drain slightly lower than the water.  So yes, the refugium will need to sit in a separate cabinet, and higher than the sumps in the main tank's stand so gravity can do the work returning refugium water to the sump. <Hmmm, dangerous to be pumping water out of the main tank into anything that is below the main tank - if the pump fails, you would still have a siphon which would drain the tank into the refugium and sump. With what you are describing, you'd be better off to place the refugium above the main tank and outflow directly back into the main tank.> What I am wondering is what size bulkheads you recommend I have drilled into the ten gallon refugium for the inflow and export of water? <At least 1 inch, internal diameter or better.> I have heard that no more than 3-5x turn over in a refugium should be performed, so...my question is "If my main tank is 55 gallons (really only like 40 gallons due to water dispersion by rocks, etc) and I am using a 10 gallon refugiums. Thanks what sort of pump is out there that will pump a mere 30 gallons or so an hour up about 2 feet from the sump to the refugium? Will I need to get a small power head to do the job? Do they even make pumps that only pump 30 gallons or so an hour (up  a 2 foot incline traveling about 4 feet from the main tank to refugium). <You can always put a valve on a larger pump.> Should I get a larger pump and put some sort of ball valve or check valve inline to adjust the flow? <There you go, but again, do consider carefully where the refugium will be placed in this design.> I'd imagine I'd be using a very small diameter flexible hose to plum this small refugium, no?  How would I install a valve that's PVC based onto a flexible rubber hose? <Perhaps with PVC nipple fittings and hose clamps.> What size hose do you recommend I use from the sump pump to the refugium... 3/8ths inch?. more?... less?  <Again, check over my previous comments, I don't really recommend doing this at all. At least not as described.> Does the gravity fed bulkhead/drain on the refugium have to be a minimum size incase something were to block it's opening?  Maybe like 5/8" would be ok? I've read that 1" should be minimum for such, but then wouldn't this tiny 10 gallon tank drain very fast with that size hole? <With gravity feed, the tank won't empty any quicker than it is being filled. One inch, inner diameter should be the absolute minimum for any outflow.> Ok, feel free to tackle those questions if you have a chance.    Right now I'm sure my tank's ammonia level's are spiked due to my removing the bio balls. <Oh... well do run the test. Should have done a little at a time.> I have to go check things out. Thanks for all your assistance. Steve <Cheers, J -- >

Removing bioballs I would value your thoughts on whether there would be any benefit in my removing bio-balls from my system. I am running a 450 litre reef tank with about 60 kilos of live rock, no sand (to speak of), skimmer, controlled injection of ozone and a wet/dry with bio-balls. 2 x 150 MH on for 10 hours a day. PH range between 8.0 and 8.2 (v stable), ammonia, nitrate and nitrite nil, summer temperature range between 27.5 and 28.5 c. Fish inhabitants are Flame Angel, Mandarin, Yellow coris (canary), small Kole and Purple tang, pair of Percula clowns, purple Blenny. Invertebrates are boxer shrimp, hammer LPS, mushroom LPS, Elegance LPS, a Duncanopsammia axifungia, one large Sarcophyton, one Lobophytum, an ice blue soft (suspect Cespitularias), 6" maxima clam, and an urchin. I feed all corals that will take it and fish well but carefully.  This setup is 6 months old and still maturing.  Current phase is experiencing quite heavy growth of Caulerpa Bryopsis which I trim regularly. All going well, I expect to begin reducing in about two months. With Nitrate zero and all other parameters stable, is there any point in removing bio-balls and replacing with LR?   <The argument for removing the bio-balls is that eventually (future) the wet/dry trickle filter will become a nitrate factory. Nitrate will affect your coral's health. You can continue to use them until you notice the nitrate level rising> What are the benefits and do you think it would speed up coralline algae dominance? <A sugar based calcium additive such as the Seachem products will aid the coralline growth...more live rock certainly won't hurt. If you add more live rock, please be sure to add slowly over a few weeks. You may get die-off that will spark your ammonia levels in the main tank> Best regards, MP <Happy Holidays! David Dowless>

Bioballs and Ceramic Rings (Coral Chips, Too) Good day. <Hi there! Scott F. here today> As far I know these two media act as biological area. Besides that, is it by using  ceramic ring able to improve the water quality in marine tank. <Well, mainly biological filtration. Both are generally made from inert materials. Some mechanical filtration occurs if water entering the chamber where they are contained is not pre-filtered first> I have another question, about "coral chips" hobbyists love to use for marine and freshwater tanks. Are they able to improve the water quality - reduce cloudy water or just add carbonate hardness / maintain ph ? <Good question- depends on how/where they are used in the system. Sure, they can provide some carbonate hardness and dissolved minerals. They can also act as a mechanical filter to remove detritus or cloudiness from the water column if used in a filter of some sort. Granted, this material will need frequent cleaning if used in this manner, or you will accumulate undesirable quantities of organics...> Thank you for you advice.. <Very good/interesting questions! Thank you for stopping by! Regards, Scott F>

Bio-balls heave-ho Hey Guys: <Howdy Chris> Have a quick question for ya . I have a 55 gallon tank with 45 pounds of live rock. I am currently using an AMiracle cc protein skimmer (I know its not the best, plan on upgrading soon ) and have the bioballs in my wet dry. Is there enough live rock in my tank to remove bio balls. If so should I remove all at once or a few a day. Thanks so much....    <Likely no big deal removing all at once, but I would do half now... another half (quarter) a week or two later, and the last bit the same time frame later. Please see here re: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/bioballfaqs.htm Bob Fenner>

Quarantine Tank, Bioballs Dear WWM crew, I am a little confused on the reference to sponge filter for seeding a quarantine tank. Do you mean a power filter unit that utilizes a sponge for a filter or simply a sponge type filter that would come from the display and dropped directly into the quarantine tank. <We are generally referring to the simple sponge filters run by an air pump, but either would work.> Question number 2: My 180 gallon tanks has two corner internal overflows which I have packed with bio-balls to kill the waterfall noise. I know I have a nitrate factory going on here. Do you have suggestions for killing the noise without the use of bioballs? <Search for plans for the Durso overflow modification. This should be very easy to find on Yahoo or a similar search engine.> I have thought about large hair curlers and the possible use of high density polystyrene. <Any media will give you the same nitrate problems.> Question number 3:  Can I move my powerheads (2 MaxiJet 1200's) from the main tank to the sump and have the same results. <No, not really.> Fish only (Huma Trigger, Regal Tang, Map Angel, Green Bird Wrasse, Marble Wrasse and Raccoon Butterfly) with 150 to 200 lbs. live rock tank. I have two Mag 12's returning water from the sump to the display. Sump capacity is approximately 60 gallons. <Best regards. -Steven Pro>

Jump Starting Wet/Dry BioBalls Wondering........ if I were to float bioballs in some of my existing tanks and ensure that the current kept them tumbling across the surface, would that serve to colonize them so that I could later gather them for use in a wet/dry? <Yes> I have enough mature tanks that I could distribute six or seven gallons of bioballs among them without taking up too much surface area in any one tank. It would seem that at least some sort of colonization would take place, but I wonder if there would be enough to (nearly) instantly cycle a new filter. <Likely so. Please see here re means of establishing cycling: http://www.wetwebmedia.com/estbiofiltmar.htm Bob Fenner> Thanks in advance for the help! Chris

Please explain my balls Hi. Thank you for this format. I believe you are doing great service to the hobby. <thank you, my friend... it is a labor of love for us all> I need some help in understanding something. I don't understand why everyone is anti-bioballs! <hmmm... a bit overstated but lets roll with it <G>. More a matter really of there being a better way (live rock) for most aquarists> The statement "bioballs create nitrates" really bugs me! <it is true, though, just like any other filter that encourages nitrifying faculties> How can the media that turns the Bio load into nitrates be blamed? Doesn't live rock, live, sand, etc., turn the Bio load into nitrates. <Ahhh... there the source of your confusion, bud. They are two very different processes! Bio-balls and other man-made filters facilitate mineralization... the conversion of nitrogenous waste. Converting ammonia and nitrite leaving nitrate as a nasty by-product. Biota on live rock and in live sand, however, can often use organic matter and by-products directly (no mineralization) and nitrogen is bubbled off as a gas (or converted by NNR). The process is a lot more complex of course... some corals and creatures in live substrates directly consume ammonia and nitrite, but it is true that there are nitrifying faculties on and in the rock that convert waste just like bio-balls. The difference, however, is that there are also DE-nitrifying faculties in live rock, and especially in deep sand, that convert nitrate (something that is impossible for bio-balls to do in the dedicated aerobic environment)> Isn't the Bio load the culprit? <In the biggest sense, yes... but its an unfair question. We are not talking about the culprit here... assuming the bio-load isn't obscene... all these animals have to eat something! Your question is really about how that bio-load is Handled. On that point... we now know a better way: live rock. Aquarists with a reasonable amount of live rock in their system can enjoy the same or better nitrifying faculties as bio-balls... PLUS enjoy the benefits of denitrification (Nitrate reduction). Bio-balls are only necessary (and they are effective!) when the bio-load is so large and overbearing (large fish, messy fish, overstocking, overfeeding as with commercial operations) that even a reasonable amount of live rock cannot handle the load. At that point the aquarists must simply deal with the live rock and nitrate produce (water changes)> Don't you have to have someway of getting rid of nitrates, such as water changes, denitrifying filters or deep sand beds etc., no matter witch way you chose to process the bio load? <I think you just made my point and answered your own question. Its very good to see a man so concerned about his bio-balls> Thank you, Rick <no, Rick... thank you. Answering WWM e-mail is fun and education. Kind regards, Anthony>

Re: bioballs question Hey Craig, I got a cheap protein skimmer (Visi-jet) (my plan was to buy a better skimmer early next year) to hopefully assist me with my battle with Cyano for now. I installed it with my bioballs in my wet/dry filter (sump?). After I put the protein skimmer and add water in the sump to get the skimmer going, my bioballs are now submerge in water. Is this going to be a problem? I only have 60 lbs of live rocks so far for my 90 gal. Thanks. Jun <The bioballs need oxygen to work properly, they are usually set-up in a drip type system.  If this was the case with yours, this could be a problem.  I'm not a big fan of bioballs because they produce nitrates with no capacity to reduce them as with LR and LS.  Perhaps fill this space with well cured live rock instead over time.  I would be thinking of removing the bioballs over time myself.  Craig>

Bye-Bye Bioballs! Probably a recurring question but here goes. I have a 75 gallon tank that has been up and running for about a year. It contains about 75 lbs. of live rock and has about 3 inches of live sand. About 10 small crabs, 3 colt coral, 4 mushroom polyps, 1 yellow tang, 1 large (4 inches long) size goby, 3 damsels, 5 clown fish. I have two bio-wheels that the water goes thru to return to the tank. I have a 150 gallon Aqua Clear Aquatics wet/dry that has a good skimmer. Can I take out the bio-balls? And if I put live rock in the wet/dry in place of the bio-balls the live rock will not be covered with water so could I just take out the bio-balls and use the wet/dry for mechanical filtration along with the skimmer? I plan to add some more hardy coral (colt variety) and maybe one to two more Tangs in a few months. Thanks, Richard Wilbur <Well, Richard, not only can you remove the bioballs, but you may even want to consider removing the bio wheels at some point, too. With the wet-dry now functioning as a sump, and the live rock/sand performing the biological filtration system, you will really not need supplementary mechanical filtration, IMO. The sump serves as a settling basin of sorts for detritus, which can easily be siphoned out with your regular water changes. Some people use filter "socks" or "bags" in these systems, which do serve to remove gross, and even fine particulate from the water, but these items have not been needed in my experience. You need to pay a great deal of attention to regularly cleaning and/or replacing mechanical filter media, so that they do not become "nutrient traps" that can degrade your water quality. Good luck on the transition! Regards, Scott F.>

Re: Submersing Bioballs in Wet/Dry Thank you David for your assistance! Your service is GREAT, and I intend to lend my support as I can. I would like to clarify one thing in regard to your advice.  You suggested "submerging the bioballs".  Does this mean that I should have ONLY submerged bioballs in the filter - none in the "dry / trickle" chamber? <The usual way of setting up a wet/dry is to have the water cascading over a filter pad of some type and then have the water trickling over the bioballs. I'm simply suggesting try to have the bioballs totally covered with water.> If indeed this is your suggestion, should I add gauze media to the "dry/trickle" area? <I would simply add only as many bioballs as the water standing in the trickle area will cover.> Thanks again! Richard <The pleasure is all mine. Let me know how this tank turns out! David D.>

Replacing Bioballs With Rock Hello Bob, <Scott F. here tonight> Quick question for you. I'm setting up a 55G fish only with LR aquarium.  There will be about 50 lbs. of LR in the tank. Let me back up. This tank was set up last year as a reef tank and started leaking in early spring. The LR has been stored in a Rubbermaid drum and the water has been continuously circulated around the LR so I'm assuming I still have some beneficial bacteria on the rock.  My question pertains to all the stuff I see in the Q & A's and filter/sump sections about replacing bioballs with LR.  The wet/dry filter I'll be using is a Sealife systems model 60(pretty small - made to fit in a 48x13 stand) I believe.  I'm confused as to whether or not to use the blue balls that came with the filter or try and use small pieces of LR where the bioballs would normally be.  Also if I use the LR instead should it be submerged( won't hardly be any room in this filter) or above the water line where the bioballs would be?  Thanks in advance for your good advice - kevin h. <Well, Kevin, if it were me, I'd put the rock in a section of the sump where it can remain submerged. When you remove the bioballs from your trickle filter, the unit becomes a "sump", which is more-or-less an area for settling of detritus, biological filtration, macroalgae cultivation, etc. can take place. The live rock in your system (along with the live sand bed) will work with the rock in your sump as a natural filter that will efficiently process chemical waste naturally. I have seen people with some of the live rock above the waterline in the sump, right below the drainpipes where the water flowed onto the rock continuously; however, I'd recommend keeping it submerged, and you can place the rock that won't fit into your sump back in the main system. Good luck!>

Location of articles specifically explaining benefit of removing biomedia from wet dry filter Hello and thank you for reading this.  <Hi Richard> I have gone through most of your articles regarding the benefits of removing the bio media in a wet dry filter. My question is what specifically is the benefit of removing the bio media from the wet dry trickle filter.  <These bio-media convert nitrite to nitrate as a dead-end process awaiting your export via water change. Removing them and relying instead on 1 -1.5 lbs of live rock per gallon and deep sand beds further breaks the nitrate down to it's gaseous form in the deep anoxic recesses in the rock and sand and it rises to the surface of the water. This does not preclude removing other non-nitrogenous wastes and replacing vital elements with regular water changes.>  I understand from your articles that the live rock and live sand will do the job of the plates or bio balls or whatever was in the wet dry. But specifically what is the benefit. For example does live rock and live sand take the denitrification a step further, for example convert nitrates into some other substance? <Yes, gaseous form, as above> Does relying on the live rock and live sand remove the need for water changes?  <No.> I currently am using a wet dry trickle filter as well as live rock and live sand in a 90 gallon tank. The inhabitants include three damsels two perculas about 30- 40 pounds of mixed live rock and 3-4 inches of live aragonite sand. Things are going fine everything is thriving as long as I change around 20 gallons of water a month. Will removing the bio media in my wet dry trickle filter improve my water quality to the degree that water changes are no longer needed or are needed less frequently? If you would kindly point me in the right direction I would greatly appreciate the insight. Thanks. Richard Slocum <I would advise adding more LR before removing the wet/dry although you have a relatively light bio-load. There is much more on live rock and sand on WetWebMedia.com. Scroll to the bottom of the page and type "live rock" into the google search engine. Craig> 

Bio Balls/pH <Thanks for writing Todd> Someday I hope to get this all straight. My tank is a 75 with a 29 sump/refugium with an additional 20 gallon refugium attached to the same sump. I do use a protein skimmer. My sump/refugium is a DIY knock off of an Eco system. I installed four baffles 2 are 2" of f the bottom and keep the bio balls contained and the other two keep the refugium full of water. I use Bio-ball type media where the inlet water enters the sump and after the water leaves the refugium before entering the main pump section. Should I remove the bio balls from one or both of these sections?  <You don't say if this is for fish or reef, but with sufficient live rock and sand you could remove the bioballs ***over time***. As you are transferring bioload from bioballs to LR/LS it is like adding livestock, do it over time so the system can adjust. Removing them actually will reduce your nitrate levels.> Also, my alk is 4.12 and my PH is 8.0 before the photo period. Can't seem to raise the PH and not sure I need to. I currently only use iodine and B-ionic. Would you recommend I dose with Kalk to raise the ph without increasing the alkalinity? Or stay with what I'm doing now? <The Kalk could work, but please do check nutrient (bioballs?), and test for the several other factors which could depress pH. Magnesium should be 1350-1500. Alk 3.5 to 5. Use buffered RO/DI top off water adjusted to 8.3 pH. I would also test replacement water to see if it starts there. It's not uncommon for some salt mixes to be insufficiently buffered or to have low magnesium levels. Kalk use depends on the amount of replacement water, pH, and calcium levels. Test to be safe! It can raise pH rapidly if improperly used so monitor pH.> <Hope this helps, Craig> 

Removing BIO Balls Hi: I have been running a 55 gallon corner All Glass tank for over 5 months with (60 lbs of LR one Yellow Tang, 2 clowns, a blue Damsel and a blue/green Chromis). I have a Sealife Systems 75 pro Wet/Dry w/built in skimmer filter and I was wondering if I should remove the BIO balls from my filter slowly and have my 60 lbs of LR take over the filtering. I have read that bio balls are not needed if LR is present and may cause Nitrate problems after the tank has matured . Should I remove the Bio Balls slowly or all at once? I'm thinking of removing the Bio Balls slowly at 25% intervals every week and not all at once. Also is the built in skimmer in my wet/dry enough for my system? Should I replace the skimmer? >From what I've noticed the skimmer doesn't do a great job. Please let me know. Thanks Aram <Hello Aram, with the Live Rock the bio balls are not necessary and will cause excess nitrates. I would remove the bio balls in short intervals, maybe 25% every two weeks to allow your live rock to catch up. I am not familiar with the skimmer in your system, how much skimmate is it producing, and how often? Are there any adjustments that you can make to it to give it a little encouragement? -Gage>

Please help. (Powerheads? Marine Set-up...) I am setting up a 125 gallon reef tank, All-Glass aquarium, with model 3612 ecosystem filter powered by Iwaki WMD40RLXT. <I would remove any biomedia here.> Should I put any powerheads in the tank? <that or a closed circulation system) What model(s) do you recommend? <Most people like and use Maxi-jets> What flow rate? <ten times total volume overall> Where should I locate? <This is an individual consideration depending on how the tank/rock/inhabitants are placed or configured and what you want to keep. Please do look into a good book that will provide the various conditions for whatever you plan to keep.> How much live rock should I use? <Depends on the type/density/weight of the rock. For Fiji the recommendation ranges from 1 to 1.5 lbs per gallon. This is also a personal/appearance decision. The above recommendation factors in bioload.> Thanks for all your continued help. You are very welcome, have fun! Craig

Re: Power Heads for Reef Tank Craig, Biomedia is stuff like Chemipure, etc? <No. Bioballs, sponges, etc. If it's sponge and you want it to filter particulate matter, then it needs to be cleaned at the very least, weekly. Most sponges, bioballs, media etc. produce nitrates from nitrites. LR and DSB's resolve this.> Do you like the Power Sweep power head that rotates? <No, and you won't either. They sometimes last a whole week!> What brand do you like for calcium? <I use SeaChem products as they are balanced and supply minor elements in proportion to the major element you are supplementing. IE: Seachem calcium also contains magnesium, strontium, etc.> What brand do you like for alkalinity? <Ditto, Seachem buffer or Reef Carbonate depending on what is happening with your pH. (read the labels) Kent makes a good buffer/carbonate builder as well> What brand do you like for iodine? <I'm not particular. I use Lugol's Solution according to test, label and response.> I hope this helps! Craig

Re: Power Heads for Reef Tank Hi Steve, Because bioballs *produce* nitrate waste, they do not consume it. This is okay for fish which can tolerate higher nitrate levels than inverts and corals. Removing the bioballs removes the problem, and the LR and DSB will process your nitrites into nitrate and nitrate into gas which then leaves the system. This is not possible with the added nitrates from the bioballs. Processing nitrite to nitrate is an aerobic process (requires oxygen) and processing nitrate to gas form is an anaerobic process (requires the absence of oxygen). Bioballs are bathed in oxygen, hence they only perform one part of the process. Does this explain it? For more check WWM, WWF, or Anthony Calfo's excellent book. I hope this helps! Craig

Liverock & Large Predators IV (sumps, removing bioballs, nitrate) Greetings Steven Pro, I hope all is well. A quick follow-up. As I am about to add a 2nd sump, change pump, etc., I am faced with a space challenge in my 72" stand. My tank is in my living room so all the plumbing must be hidden in the stand. My sump #1 (a converted wet/dry) is 24 inches long, followed will be followed in series by approximately 8 inches of connections to sump #2 which is 24 inches also. This leaves only about 16" for connections to my pump and the pump itself. I can fit it all in, but this limits my potential to add another item in series (I'm contemplating a small refugium someday). <Before you add on yet another vessel, I would urge you to buy one big tank/sump and use it for all your needs; sump, refugium, protein skimmer box, etc. Much safer than all these connections/potential spaces for leaks.> I believe I have read somewhere that you cannot place an elbow before the inlet to a pump such as the 1200 gph Iwaki I just purchased. Can you confirm that this would be a bad move? <It will restrict the flow.> If I could use an elbow it would allow me to place my pump sideways and free up some extra room. <You are going to be using some additional powerheads or something else too anyway, as your 180 will need more circulation than the Iwaki can supply alone. If the elbow helps you, go for it and just compensate with the additional added flow.> Thank you for your advice. BTW, you guys have been giving me great tips. I am preparing for the addition of a lot of live rock in the next month or so, and have been slowly testing the biological capability of my "dead rock" that I've had for years in the meantime. I'm now down to 1/4 of the bioballs I originally had in my wet-dry, and my nitrates have steadily dropped from 40 to now 5 this week. The only thing that dropped further was my jaw when I re-checked the latest test. I've never had such low readings before. And all this before adding the live rock and a Euro Reef skimmer I just ordered. Pass on my thanks to all -- more good news to come I'm sure! Steve. <Glad to hear it! -Steven Pro>

Removing Bioballs I would like to know when I remove the bio balls from my wet dry if the ammonia level is going to go up and when would this happen? <This all depends on what else is taking the place of the biological filtration.> The first 24 hours or would it take longer for the ammonia to spike? <You will need to monitor closely over a week or so.> Thank you, Pat <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

LR and Bio Balls Hello there, A short question, long intro: I have 45lbs or Fiji live rock and about 10 or 12 lbs of Gulf/Atlantic LR in my 55 gallon tank. I have a yellow tang (medium), a Kole tang (medium), and four damsels with 2 FL Condy anemones, 1 bubble tip (small, but in the middle of splitting), at least 2 serpent stars, a peppermint shrimp, 7 snails and about ten blue legged hermits, and a colony (small) of yellow polyps. Could I start removing the bio-balls or should I purchase a few more pounds of LR before doing so? <Mmm, you could pull the bio-balls w/o trouble now... guessing at how long this system been up/going... but it's likely months given the livestock list> Ammonia = 0, Nitrate<20, Calcium >400...I have an AquaC Urchin in a ten gallon sump, 2 sweeping power heads in the tank, and I use Boyd's Chemi-pure...I don't know the power of the return pump, many moons old...I plan to add 2 or three more soft corals over the next year and get rid of the FL Condys, add a cinnamon clown (my last one recently jumped out of the tank and is now in that great reef in the sky, so I replaced the eggcrate covering) and get rid of three of the damsels. Thanx, Randy M. Yniguez, MA <Let's change the "getting rid" terminology to "trading in" okay? Bob Fenner>

Trickle filter media hello, <And hello to you.> I have a happy and kicking 58g reef tank that has been using a oceanic 75+ trickle filter for almost two years now. I'm going to start slowly removing my bio balls, and had a question. I'm in the process of setting up a 75g fish only tank, not reef ready though. I used to use a Fluval 404 canister for mechanical, letting my LR do the biological filtration in the tank (high flow tank). Well, now that the tank has been sitting disassembled for some 6 months, and I have only 20lbs of rock available for it, I thought perhaps I could put the bio balls from my 58g that I slowly remove into the canister. Will this help with biological filtration establishment or do bio balls have to be in open air in a trickle type set up? <I think this will work for you. It is the wet/dry part that makes these filters efficient nitrogen reducers, but they should work just fine to augment the #20 of live rock.>  Thanks in advance :) Bill <Cheers, J -- >

Remove bioballs? Hello again, I'd like to get your opinion on whether or not you think my FOWLR 72 gallon tank would be a candidate for having the bioballs removed and relying solely on protein skimming and live rock for filtration. I currently have 60 pounds of live rock in the main tank along with 2 Ocellaris clowns, royal Gramma, 4" raccoon butterfly, and 4" majestic angelfish. <Yes, sound like you could remove the bioballs.> I would add more live rock to the sump and slowly remove the bioballs if you think this would be feasible with this bioload. My skimmer is an AquaC EV120. Also, can liverock be placed in a dark sump or should there be lighting? <It can be kept dark to encourage sponge growth versus algae growth. These are called cryptic sumps or zones.> I already have a lush growth of Caulerpa in my main tank. As always, thanks so much for your help. Karen <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

BioBalls Hello Bob, First of all I want to thank you all for your kindness and caring to help me. The 70 Gal. tank that I'm having a problem with high Nitrates (in the Red)!!! is not a live reef tank. The bottom of the tank is covered with crushed coral and it is decorated with different types of coral. Do I still need to take out the bio balls? Thanks so much, Mary Anne <I would yes. Not needed, more potential trouble than an asset. Bob Fenner>

Bioballs Hello and thx again for your help!! I currently building a sump for my tank and I had this question : I know that the bioballs r suppose to be on the flow of the water but can they be on the flow under the water or they need to be outside?? I don't know if u understand what I mean but here a pic to help... See on the picture the balls r under water ...and someone told me that it wasn't correct to do that and that I need to build something outside somewhere that the water is going to flow thru it and then go to the sump. What do u think? Thx a lot again Charles <indeed... the diagram is flawed. Bioballs work much better if they are exposed to air while water trickles over them (they have "unlimited" oxygen for bacteria this way). When they are submerged, they are limited by dissolved oxygen in the water and they compete with the fishes and inverts for it. Anthony>

W/D media I noticed in your past responses that you do not condone the use of media in the W/D filter since they act to produce nitrates. I agree, and what I did was remove the little blue balls (don't laugh) <I'm not. I would too>. I have an acrylic tank with an overflow at one end. The water going over the overflow sounded like a waterfall so I took those blue balls and put them in the overflow <Good idea>. Now, they are going to act the same as if they were in the W/D filter and produce nitrates. Any suggestions to baffle the sound of the water without the undesired affects of increased nitrates or am I destined to more frequent water changes? <The balls being underwater will produce much less nitrate than as "air and water" covered media... you probably will notice dramatic positive effects from this change... less algae, better livestock health... I would not change what you have done to deaden the noise either. Bob Fenner>

2 questions... Removing bioballs, id unknown Hi Mr. Fenner, <Howdy> I have 2 questions for you today, a) I presently have a built-in over flow with a trickle filter/wet-dry sump, both now have bio-balls in them. I plan on adding a refugium and plenum. At what point, how many at a time & how often should I start removing them ? <The bioballs? After two weeks remove half, another two weeks and you can take out the rest> b) 1 1/2 week ago, I've noticed , on my live rock, a white "something" that resembles a hollow football that is attached to the rock at one end, and the other end has a circular opening , as if the tip of the football had been cut off. Since I've noticed it, it has already grown an eighth of an inch. It's also fuzzy/furry. I know it definitely is not a glass anemone (my peppermint shrimp took care of those when I had two...) Do you have any idea what this could be? and is it safe to leave it? or should something be done about getting rid of it? <Likely something in the huge assemblage of invertebrates... a tunicate, sponge, Bryozoan... Some coverage of these and pix on the WetWebMedia.com site> Looking forward to reading your answers, Thank you, Greg Nichifor <Be chatting. Bob Fenner>

Removing Bio Media <Anthony Calfo here living' la Vida loca> First I want to say I have just found your site and love it. <excellent my friend> I do have a couple questions. I have a 75 gallon fish only tank. Inhabitants are 1-4 inch Naso Tang, 1 -4 inch Koran Angel and a 6 inch Double Saddle butterfly. First question is regarding feeding. I feed Ocean nutrition Flake, brine shrimp plus, 3 times a day in small amounts, through out the day I give Julian Sprung's green algae and in the evening I will feed with O.N. frozen formula two and/or angel formula. Should this be enough as far as variety or is this feeding to much. <small frequent feedings are much healthier for fish and necessary for most butterflies. Just be sure to feed tiny portions that are consumed without wasting much or any food in the tank. There is no such thing either regarding variety if the foodstuffs are appropriate (greens for herbivores, etc)> Second question is regarding turning my CPR wet/dry into a sump with substrate and live rock. Today I removed half the bio bale and in a couple of weeks will remove the rest. As the live rock and substrate is added will there be a process of recycling and if so, enough that it is bad for the fish. I have been going thru the site but haven't found the best way to turn wet/dry to sump. If you could lead me in the right direction. I'm sure we'll be talking more <simply add rock before you remove bio-media. A rough rule of thumb is one to two pounds of live rock per gallon of tank water with more rock in better stacked fish displays. As much as I am disinclined to use artificial filtration media (nitrate concerns)... your two fish alone are going to get quite large and require serious filtration. I'd advise you to add live rock AND keep your bio-media for safety. Control nitrates with regular partial water changes (5-10% weekly). With kind regards, Anthony>

Removing Media Tower Bob, I am in the process, over time, of removing my bio-media from my wet-dry. Have seen positive effects already! <Yes> Once the last has been removed, what can I do with the media tower itself? If I were to remove it, I should be able to alleviate some of the "rain" sound. <Yes again> Does the break-up and subsequent "raining" effect of the water going through the empty media tower have any positive aspects? <Not enough (gaseous diffusion et al.) to make this worthwhile. Bob Fenner> -ed

Bio-Balls in a Powerfilter I've read that it is a good idea to have "bio-balls" on top of my carbon filter. I'm running an Aquaclear 200 in a 33 gal. tank. What are "bio-balls" and are they useful ? <Bio-Balls are about the size of a ping pong ball, typically blue, and made up of plastic pins that have a very large amount of surface area relative to their volume. They are used as a surface to grow beneficial, nitrifying bacteria. You really would not be able to fit very many in a Aquaclear 200 after the sponge and carbon filters, maybe three bio-balls.> You guys don't understand how nice it is to have a site like yours for a beginner like myself. Thanks a lot, James <You are welcome. -Steven Pro>

What to do with my balls? <author's title... not WWM's, but thanks for the query anyway. A hit with the lowest brow humor of our rowdy band <smile>... and a question I ask myself most every day> Oi! I've been readin' through ya'lls site for the last 3-4 months now and can't begin to tell you how much it has helped me!  <please do spread the word about it and good to hear it from you> My only regret is that I didn't find it sooner. I have however read CMA cover to cover a few hundred times <HEE-HEE>. Won't be long before my girlfriend gets {angry} enough to chunk it in the trash. Anyway, here's the skinny on my tank. 55g long going for about a year now 2 48" 40watt bulbs 1actinic + 1 50/50 Pro 75 wet/dry by Aqua Clear Aquatics- This came with a dinky little skimmer but it does produce a lot of foul smellin' dark green funk. <if close to daily production, I have no complaints> For circulation I've got a pump on each corner of the tank about 3" above the sand. Oh yeah, the return pump from the wet/dry is a Rio 2100. 4" aragonite sand bed fine but not sugar fine) and about 70lb. of live rock Stock is: 2" dwarf zebra lion, 3" lawnmower blenny, 1" yellowtail damsel, 2" tomato clown, 2"bi-color angel, 8" snowflake eel Water specs: ph-8.3, ammonia-0ppm, nitrite-0ppm, nitrate-60to100ppm at any given time as well as after water changes(20g every 3 weeks) alk-5.4 meq, cal- around 250-300, temp-78-80 <back off of the buffer bubba and try to raise the Calcium a bit. Those numbers are skewed> Alright here's my question: I've been wantin' to pull the bio-balls from my wet/dry and replace with live rock but was unsure because of the heavy bio-load in my tank. Would this be wise or detrimental to my fish.  <you do not have what could be considered large or messy feeding fish. If you do not overfeed and upgrade the skimmer (perhaps add a second model).. I can see this tank working on live rock alone. Buy the rock first, of course, and run concurrent for a few weeks before removing any bio-media. See archives of FAQ's on this topic> Hoping to get these nitrate levels down to a somewhat respectable level.  <with normal feeding, that deep sand bed and good skimming... I think you should be able to do this easily> I've read the FAQS but I just end up more confused. Please help me , my brain hurts. Rob <way too many jokes in that last comment...heehee. Best regards, Anthony>

Follow the Bouncing Bio-Ball Bob, <JasonC, doing his best Bob impersonation> I've seen on the site many times where you recommend removing the bio balls from the w/d filters. How soon can you do this on a new tank with protein skimming and a little more than 1 lb. LR per gal. <If it's a new-new tank with no fish in it, do it right now.> Also in reference to Ehfi-Mech, can that be placed in a mesh bag to keep it under control in a sump, and how much is needed or would just submerging the bio balls in the sump accomplish the same thing. <yes to keeping Ehfi-Mech in a bag, unsure about how much is enough - surely the manufacturer makes a recommendation, and yes they will accomplish the same end> (reduced nitrates) I like the idea of putting LR, Caulerpa in my sump. I don't understand though how to protect my p/s pump and my sump pump from getting contaminated with debris from these things. <foam pre-filters, perhaps> My sump is a DIY type made out of a 20 gal. aquarium. It does not have a sponge type of divider between the bioballs and where the p/s and sump pump is. <perhaps the time to add one is now> thanks again for your help - Kevin <no problem, my pleasure. Cheers, J -- >

What to do with these Bio-Balls now? Hey Ya: I recently pull all the bio balls out of my sump. I had the set up for a while and it started to gradually pick up on nitrates. I didn't know that when using liverock/sand you shouldn't be using bio balls, thanks to the forum I do now and fully understand why. So I gradually pulled the balls out and now my nitrates are under control. Great :) <Glad to hear of your success and how helpful the forum is.> Now here is the question. I know I am pushing the line of stupidity here. But could I stick the bio ball together with aquarium silicone of something to make up double fist sized rock and stick into the tank to make up for not having enough liverock. I have already given the cats a few of the balls for toys. And would like to use some to build up my rocks. I figure if I do this gradually one sculpture at a time I shouldn't be pushing my luck in bringing my nitrates up. Plus giving more home to the various worms and copepods. I am sure they would pretty out of place until the coralline algae took over. Being as that I am spent on the tank for a while this seems to be my best option for liverock. Plus it is light weight and water would shoot straight thru. What do you think? Have I crossed the line of pure insanity and stupidity or not? <That is an interesting proposal. My only concern is for detritus to get trapped inside the bio-balls.> If not is there another way to glue these things together other than silicone (pvc cement or something)? <Super glue is ok for aquariums. I do not know if that would be any better to work with though.> I have already made a couple of structures and god that was tedious with the silicone. -Kevin Johnson <Let us know how your little experiment turns out. I would only try a few for starts and locate them where they could be removed if they become a problem. -Steven Pro>


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