Bio Balls/Spheres

JRunyon21
  • #1
I have heard from numerous people that bio balls/spheres are a bad idea. They say that they are nothing but nitrate factories.

If in fact that is the case, are they not just really good at what they are supposed to be doing?

If I use bio balls/spheres along with other filter media and I monitor my nitrate levels, are bio balls/spheres a good way to go? They seem like great bacteria housings.

Any advance is much appreciated.
 
RiffDawg15
  • #2
Using bio balls is only a good idea to help cycle your tank faster. After your tank is cycled yes they are a nitrate booster.

I couldnt keep my nitrates under 40 for about a month, then I got the idea to take out all the bio balls and shazaam now my nitrates are between 10-20 never exceeding 20.

So my advice to you is to only use the bio balls until your tank is fully cycled, then take them out.

As far as filter media goes, I have two filters on my 55 gallon tank. A whisper 60 and Emperor 400, so you could say I have about 180gph overkill, and that still did not keep the nitrates lower than 40. So I'm not sure that would work.
 
JRunyon21
  • Thread Starter
  • #3
Thanks for the advice. Sounds like a good plan.

Does anyone know why they produce so many nitrates. It would seem that the nitrates comes from the nitrites which come from Ammonia. That being said, it would seem like a good idea to keep the bioballs to keep the ammonia and/or nitrites out.

But people seem to get higher amounts of nitrates with bioballs while their ammonia and nitrites are the same with or without the bioballs. Does anyone know how bioballs could possibly produce nitrates without ammonia and/or nitrites???
 
RiffDawg15
  • #4
Your bio-filter/bacteria will grow continually. Once it has established enough to keep your ammonia and nitrites down to 0 then you really don't need to keep producing bacteria. This is when you want to start controlling the amount of bacteria, fish waste, uneaten food in your tank. If you have too much of those 3 things then your nitrates will sky rocket. This is why we do our weekly water changes and gravel vacuum's.

Taking out fish waste, uneaten food, and controlling the growth of the bacteria helps keep your nitrates down below 20. And doing those water changes keeps the correct amount of ammonia to keep the bacteria you have established fed.

The bio-balls keep creating bacteria and after a while it builds up too much, causing your nitrates to read way higher than wanted.

If that doesn't make sense let me know and I will try to describe it differently until you understand. Hope this helps.
 
JRunyon21
  • Thread Starter
  • #5
Still a little hazy to me. I understand if I have a lot uneaten food and waste sitting around how nitrates could go up. This creates ammonia which is converted to Nitrites and then converted to Nitrates. That concept is very easy to understand. What I do not understand is how my Nitrates can go up without my Ammonia/Nitrites going up?

I just do not think you can have too much bacteria. The bacteria's sole purpose is to convert Ammonia to eventually Nitrates.

Basically answer this question.

If I established a huge bacteria colony on a huge amount of bioballs and then I somehow stopped all the Ammonia/Nitrites sources to the bioballs. Would my Nitrates still go up?
(This is theoretically speaking of course.)

I do not see how Nitrates could be produced with no Ammonia/Nitrites to feed the bacteria load.
 
calinb
  • #6
I have heard from numerous people that bio balls/spheres are a bad idea. They say that they are nothing but nitrate factories.
I've never understood such statements. Maybe someone can explain it to me in terms of the nitrogen cycle.

It seems to me that strong "nitrate factories" are good! The "factories" can't create nitrates from nowhere, of course, so they must be converting waste (ammonia and nitrites). This is good because nitrates are not as bad as the stuff they come from. The only way a nitrate factory could be bad is if it is contributing to the waste, itself (biologically decaying). This certainly is not possible with bio balls/spheres because they don't decay in any sort of non-geologic time frame.

If a tank has high nitrate levels, regardless of the type of filter media, it needs less biological load (fewer fish/excess feeding) or more water changes or more plants or more filter water flow and/or filter bed media or a de-nitrating filter or ....

If bacteria don't have enough food (aquarium waste), regardless of how much filter media or filter area you have, they simply die off and no longer process waste to nitrates. Given sufficient filter media bed surface area, the size of the bacteria colony adjusts to the biological load on the filter system--if given enough time too, of course.

Just my $0.02 and view of the situation. Someone please correct me, in terms of the nitrogen cycle, if I'm wrong.

-Cal
 
JRunyon21
  • Thread Starter
  • #7
I agree 100%. Nitrate does appear from bio media for no reason. It comes from other more harmful chemicals(Ammonia/Nitrites). I just thought somehow, someway, the nitrtates were being produced other than through the nitrogen cycle.


Thanks a lot everyone for the input.
 
Ryno
  • #8


I have the above Biomax filter media in each of the filters for my tanks. I have also had trouble getting the nitrates below 40 despite many water changes. Should I take them out?

And if so all of them or just little by little?
 
calinb
  • #9
And if so all of them or just little by little?
I don't believe reducing the quantity of your filter media will help you to reduce your nitrates, unless you remove so much media that it reduces the "strength" of your nitrogen cycle, thus increasing the even more toxic ammonia and nitrite compounds that the bacteria in the cycle turn into nitrates. That would be worse than nitrates!

If you take them out slowly you may think everything is okay and you won't immediately see the downside of your actions, because your tank bacteria will adjust to the reduction in media and continue to properly produce nitrates, but only to a point. At some point you will reduce the bacteria media bed to the extent that it can't keep up with the waste and you'll see an ammonia and/or nitrites spike.

I think you should leave the filter media alone and reduce fish stocking levels or feeding quantity or change more water or change it more often or add plants or add a de-nitrating filter.

But, again, I don't believe any filter, in particular, is a "nitrate factory" in a bad sense. Nitrate factories are exactly what we want! Unless we can have nitrogen (N2) factories, of course. The natural nitrogen cycle ends in nitrogen gas. Most of our aquariums do not actually "complete" the nitrogen cycle because the processing in our tanks ends "prematurely" with nitrates. It is possible to to setup an aquarium that, though plants or de-nitrating filters, actually completes the cycle to harmless nitrogen gas (N2), but it is more difficult or it requires a very high plant to fish ratio. Most aquarium filters are not designed to fully complete the cycle to nitrogen gas so we must do water changes to remove the nitrates and keep them at a safe level.
 

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