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Old 01-16-2012, 12:42 PM   #1
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Differences between Bio-Balls and Live rock

Please someone tell me exactly what the differences are between using Bioballs vs. live rock in a sump? This seems to be an elephant in the room with me because my LFS uses bioballs in their main system with absolutely no problems, but I really want to get the information that says why they are not good to use (if they are not).

Thank you!
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Old 01-16-2012, 12:48 PM   #2
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Originally Posted by C.a.r.i.s.s.a View Post
Please someone tell me exactly what the differences are between using Bioballs vs. live rock in a sump? This seems to be an elephant in the room with me because my LFS uses bioballs in their main system with absolutely no problems, but I really want to get the information that says why they are not good to use (if they are not).

Thank you!
Well, I do not know a lot about Bio-balls, but I do know that after a while it is possible for nitrates to build up and cause problems in the aquarium.

I, personally would go with live rock.

I hope this is somewhat helpful!
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Old 01-16-2012, 12:50 PM   #3
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Well, I do not know a lot about Bio-balls, but I do know that after a while it is possible for nitrates to build up and cause problems in the aquarium.

Where did you get this information? I'd really like some details on causes/fixes as well.

Thanks again!
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Old 01-16-2012, 12:52 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by C.a.r.i.s.s.a View Post
Where did you get this information? I'd really like some details on causes/fixes as well.

Thanks again!
I just heard it from some people here on the forum. Sorry I can't provide any more info, I hope somebody will chime in.
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Old 01-16-2012, 01:17 PM   #5
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I was wondering this to. All the Local fish stores here use bio-balls. they all have the same system too. Big ol tank in the bottem with water and bio balls.
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Old 01-16-2012, 01:18 PM   #6
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Both of them are biological filtration. LA says on the subject

"Biological media is any inert material used to cultivate beneficial bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle. The large surface area of biological media houses an enormous amount of beneficial bacteria to efficiently process harmful compounds. As aquarium water passes through the media, it brings organic waste materials to the bacteria so they can break it down into less harmful components. Efficient biological filtration relies heavily on good water movement."

The difference is that the water will flow through the bio balls. They work but LR has more space for the nitrifying bacteria to colonize. Also because the water cant go through the LR it usually causes low flow areas and low oxygen areas behind the LR where anerobic bacteria will gather that helps to get rid of nitrates. IMO LR is what you need but bio balls will work also but because the water rapidly flows through them you cant get much anerobic bacteria to colonize thus having higher nitrates.
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Old 01-16-2012, 02:49 PM   #7
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^very informative^ and all 100% accurate.
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Old 01-16-2012, 02:55 PM   #8
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Both of them are biological filtration. LA says on the subject

"Biological media is any inert material used to cultivate beneficial bacteria involved in the nitrogen cycle. The large surface area of biological media houses an enormous amount of beneficial bacteria to efficiently process harmful compounds. As aquarium water passes through the media, it brings organic waste materials to the bacteria so they can break it down into less harmful components. Efficient biological filtration relies heavily on good water movement."

The difference is that the water will flow through the bio balls. They work but LR has more space for the nitrifying bacteria to colonize. Also because the water cant go through the LR it usually causes low flow areas and low oxygen areas behind the LR where anerobic bacteria will gather that helps to get rid of nitrates. IMO LR is what you need but bio balls will work also but because the water rapidly flows through them you cant get much anerobic bacteria to colonize thus having higher nitrates.

Thank you!!! This is what I needed...
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Old 01-16-2012, 03:03 PM   #9
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Not to cause disagreement, but maybe just as a side note? I saw a similar thread a number of years ago on another forum, and one of the engineering members did the calculations to prove that in fact bioballs have just as much if not more surface area than LR does. Since I'm not a math whiz, I can't even begin to tell you if the math was correct or not, but he certainly made it sound convincing and nobody argued with him . At any rate, the surface area for anaerobic bacteria is certainly less.

I do know several individuals who have used bioballs quite successfully for many years, and one of the most important aspects of using them successfully is keeping them clean. Most I've seen recommend cleaning about 50% of them every month.

Like the others, I'm a fan of the LR rather than the bioballs, just had to throw it out there.
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Old 01-16-2012, 03:07 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Wy Renegade View Post
Not to cause disagreement, but maybe just as a side note? I saw a similar thread a number of years ago on another forum, and one of the engineering members did the calculations to prove that in fact bioballs have just as much if not more surface area than LR does. Since I'm not a math whiz, I can't even begin to tell you if the math was correct or not, but he certainly made it sound convincing and nobody argued with him . At any rate, the surface area for anaerobic bacteria is certainly less.

I do know several individuals who have used bioballs quite successfully for many years, and one of the most important aspects of using them successfully is keeping them clean. Most I've seen recommend cleaning about 50% of them every month.

Like the others, I'm a fan of the LR rather than the bioballs, just had to throw it out there.
+1 here. Bioballs can be just as successful as LR...it's just the cleaning factor and the nitrate build up issue that puts me off.
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Old 01-16-2012, 03:37 PM   #11
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Great info guys...that's what I was thinking...although my LFS has yet to need to clean theirs...maybe I need to ask them more questions!
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Old 01-16-2012, 04:20 PM   #12
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Not doubting anyone. Bioballs have been used successful to many folks. I just want that added anaerobic bacteria factor. I should have stated that I do have 200 lbs of LR in my tank and do have a section in my fuge dedicated to bioballs soon to be LR rubble.
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Old 01-16-2012, 05:09 PM   #13
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maybe as far as bacteria goes bio balls work as well be live rock houses all sorts of little creatures that help act like a CUC eating organic matter where bioballs do not. LR also doesn't have to be cleaned from all the detritus that can build up on them, the little critters that live in the rock do that as well as your actual CUC.

bioballs work no doubt and for a fish only system i would probably go with them over live rock. they are cheaper and just as effective but in a mixed reef the nitrate levels are just to high for most corals to be happy
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Old 01-16-2012, 05:42 PM   #14
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Since that's what I'm starting with...I'll go by what works for me, since that's the general advice that is given to me! I'm curious to see if that is the case...that bioballs are "nitrate factories"
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Old 01-16-2012, 05:59 PM   #15
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if you don't keep them clean they are a good pre filter will help keep them clean but stuff still gets through
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Old 01-16-2012, 06:00 PM   #16
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I thought nitrates built up in bio balls because detritus clogs them up over time. Unlike live rock which also has critters which will eat the decaying matter.
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Old 01-17-2012, 09:44 AM   #17
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I went with bio balls on a wet/ dry filter. What I did is install a 50 micron pad before the bioballs and this keeps them clean for a long time. You still have to clean them just not as often. I did this because I did not want the pest that can come with live rock. So I used base rock mostly in my tank. I only added a little cured live rock to seed my tank. I figure once all of my base rock turns to live rock I will gradually remove the bioballs because they will not be needed.

My base rock is starting to turn nicely so it won't be long before I can start removing the bioballs and turn the wet/dry into a refugium.
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Old 01-17-2012, 09:59 AM   #18
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@Crazycajun

I have filter socks plus the pad before the bioballs... I will also be doing the same thing you are doing with your rock. Eventually there will be no need for the bioballs unless I overstock my DT. I do like the idea of having the beneficial algae to take care of any extra nitrates as well (I see that as maybe a year from now once the tank is established).

Currently still yet to complete my cycle! I have loads of Nitrites/Nitrates with .5 Ammonia...I'm thinking it's my 7.8 PH that needs to get up with the help of some power heads so it will speed up. So anxious! I won’t be able to get those until the weekend unfortunately.
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Old 01-17-2012, 10:13 AM   #19
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If you have your bio balls fully submerged, they are nothing more than surface area for bacteria to grow. If they are in a wet/dry, which is a high oxygen environment, they are more efficient.
Bio balls will not remove nitrates. The bacteria on the surface will stop at nitrate production.
You need anaerobic bacteria (found deep inside live rock or in deep sand beds) to convert nitrate to nitrogen gas and remove it from the aquarium.
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Old 01-17-2012, 10:17 AM   #20
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Thank you Doug.

I was thinking about establishing a DSB in my DT, but I wanted to get some power heads first. I do also need to lower my water level in my sump for the bioballs to work effectively!
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