Biopellet aquarium filters are one of the more recent new products to hit the market for saltwater aquarium keepers. The manufacturers claim that these biopellets will reduce the level of nitrate and phosphates in your aquarium. Why do hobbyists want reduced nitrates and reduced phosphates? Primarily to keep nuisance algae from growing in their tanks and because nitrates and phosphates can negatively impact the growth rates of some corals.
How do biopellets work? Well, basically the manufacturers claim that these pellets provide places for bacteria to grow which consume nitrates and phosphates. As the bacteria multiply and grow they consume the carbon in the biodegradable biopellets. Kind of cool huh? Supposedly, these bio degradable polymers were first used in sewage treatment plants.
Saltwater reef keepers have utilized a carbon dosing regimen called vodka dosing for years. The problem with vodka dosing is that you have to do it all the time! With biopellets you put them in a reactor and they will slowly dissolve over time. About the only maintenance you will perform on a daily basis is to look at the reactor and make sure the pellets are tumbling correctly. So, running with the pellets is less time consuming and potentially less error prone than vodka dosing.
As these biopellets catch on, more and more manufacturers are making them. As of June 2011 here are some of the biopellet brands available:
Biopellets are made to be used in a fluidized filter. The Two Little Fishies Phosban reactor is an ideal first choice for many hobbyists to run these biopellets because it is inexpensive and readily available. There are other reactors (reef octopus, warner marine, brs, geo, nextreef, etc) out there and they can be quite costly but some of the more expensive models come with added features that you don't get with the TLF reactors. However, for our purposes the TLF reactors will work just fine.
Testing the biopellets!
To test these biopellets out I started with a phosban 150 reactor made by two little fishies. You can use a maxi-jet 1200 power head to pump the water thru the reactor. The reactor comes with a nozzle to let you adjust the flow of water entering the reactor. To set up the reactor here is what I did:
For the pellets I picked up one bag of the Two Little Fishies NPX Biopellets and one of the NP Biopellets bags. I wanted to see the differences in how the different brands would tumble in the reactors.
How much is this going to cost?
A 500 ml bag costs around $40 dollars. Manufacturers recommend 250 ml per 50 gallons. I would not put more than 200 to 300 ml in a TLF 150 reactor in order to get the biopellets tumbling nicely so you will need multiple reactors. Lets use a 120 gallon for an example:
The only problem I had when using just the TLF 550 reactor was the flow rate. I've used both the 150 and the 550 and totally prefer several 150's over one 550 due to the better tumbling action of the pellets in the TLF 150 reactor.
I have been running the biopellets since January 2011 on a 120 gallon tank that is very heavily stocked for a reef tank. I also feed my fish and anemones very heavily twice a day. I can say without a doubt that these biopellets are working very well at keeping my nitrates and phosphates at very low levels and my tank has little to no algae growing in it. I test my water weekly and my nitrates are always nil, while the phosphates fluctuate between .03 and .08 ppm on the hanna meter. Before the introduction of the pellets the hanna meter would display phosphate readings double and triple what I'm getting now. I do a quick wipe down of the front and side glass about twice a week with the mag-float. The gunk collected in my skimmer is gag inducing and some of the nastiest looking, smelly stuff that I've seen my octopus skimmer pull out of my tank. The sps frags look phenomenal and have great polyp extension. Saltwater hobbyists all over the net are reporting similar success stories. Time will tell, but these pellets just might be the biggest thing since the protein skimmer for reef tank keepers.
Happy Reef Keeping!
By : Mike FishLore
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