Originally Posted by willbratz
I removed my bio wheel, that thing is a nitrate factory!!! I recommend pulling it out. It's great for FW
not good for SW
I have to disagree with you here. Here's why:
Nitrate production is a function of the amount of nitrite introduced. Biowheels are simply an aerobic platform upon which aerobic bacteria may grow to convert ammonia to nitrite and ammonia to nitrate. Nitrate is exported via water changes, plant growth (refugium or algae scrubber), or through an anoxic zone (deep sand bed or the interior portions of live rock).
Removing the aerobic area does not somehow casue the nitrate to suddenly convert to free nitrogen, nor does it create an additional anoxic zone. It could conceivably slow down the porduction of nitrate, but at the expense of slowing down the conversion of nitrite and ammonia (In other words, nitrite and ammonia accumulate because there is less bacteria to turn them into the progressively less toxic forms as you would find in a new sterile uncycled tank.) In this sense, any wet and oxygen rich surface is a "nitrate factory."
The problem comes when detritus accumulates in an aerobic area. Biowheels should not accumulate detritus as they are in constant motion sloughing off any material and should be installed after mechanical filtration.
I've also heard many individuals claim bioballs are nitrate factories. This is a little more on the mark, as they can trap detritus in the water column if they aren't swished around and rinsed every so often.
Even so, if you have an anaerobic zone or a fuge, it will still consume the nitrates, regardless if they originated at bioballs or biowheels.
All that having been said, there are many who believe that a protein skimmer actually removes pollutants before they get a chance to break down. We know that skimmers pullout some nasty stuff, but we're not entirely sure what the stuff actually is. Here's a good article on what we do know through analysis of skimmate:
Feature Article: Elemental Analysis of Skimmate: What Does a Protein Skimmer Actually Remove from Aquarium Water? — Advanced Aquarist | Aquarist Magazine and Blog
All this is to say, the only way in my opinion anything can truly be a nitrate factory is if the material in question decomposes chemically into nitrates. I argue that nitrates in an aquarium result from nitrites, which result from ammonia, which resulted from animal excrement - not from plastics and textiles.
(We now return you to our regularly scheduled programming. . .)