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Old 02-01-2005, 06:06 PM   #1
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Wet/dry Nitrate Factory?

We've all been told that a wet/dry can become a nitrate factory because it only provides a proper environment for nitrifying bacteria (high oxygen) to survive. So only ammonia and nitrite are being converted in the wet/dry. The same is true with power filters. I do not use bio-balls or power filters for my reef tank; like many, I depend on the live rock and sand for the nitrogen cycle.

Many people say skip the bioballs and depend on the live rock for nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria. But for some reason I don't quite understand something and it is bugging me!! Why can't you depend on the wet/dry (bioballs) for nitrification and depend on the live rock and sand for denitrification? Afterall, ammonia and nitrite have to be converted no matter what. Who cares if the nitrifying bacteria on the bioballs do it, or the nitrifying bacteria on the live rock does it. The tank is still going to be producing the same amount of nitrates. Does this make sense? Can someone clear this up? Thanks.
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Old 02-01-2005, 06:19 PM   #2
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the wet/dry only handles aerobic (needs air) bacteria which will take care of the ammonia and nitrites but not the nitrates. The lr and dsb will foster more anarobic (no air) bacteria which will handle the nitrates. The bioballs actually help collect more material to increase your nitrates beyond what your tank will produce on its own.

Someone else might want to clarify.

HTH.
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Old 02-01-2005, 09:43 PM   #3
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Thanks DeNero. Yes, I understand that the wet/dry is not going to provide the proper environment for anerobic bacteria; but very porous live rock as well as the dsb will. I am just confused on how the wet/dry will increase the nitrates beyond what the tank will produce on its on.
If there is a specific amount of ammonia being produced within the tank, inevitably it will be converted to nitrite then nitrate; why does it matter if the wet/dry does this or the live rock? Nitrates are still going to be produced from nitrifying bacteria. Now there must be something present to control nitrates: anerobic bacteria present deep within liverock and the dsb.

Because of the efficiency of the wet/dry (high oxygen, water movement, a lot of surface area) I think it is safe to assume that most of the nitrifying will reside on the bioballs rather than the live rock. But the live rock will still host denitrifying bacteria, so what does it matter? Thanks in advance.
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Old 02-02-2005, 10:21 AM   #4
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Quote:
Why can't you depend on the wet/dry (bioballs) for nitrification and depend on the live rock and sand for denitrification
I think you sure can. You would just be narrowing your room for error. Actually, I ran an Emperor 400 with bio-wheels on my first reef tank. I never had any trouble with nitrates because I have well over 2lbs/gal of LR and a 3in sand bed. While biomedia like bioballs can and do cause higher nitrates, over-feeding, over-stocking and too little cleaning are more likely culprets.
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Old 02-02-2005, 11:08 AM   #5
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I think also what you might be missing, to answer this question you need to stop looking at the system as a whole, but instead follow the water itself at a much lower level. In a wet/dry system, the water passes over the bio-balls, the ammonia is removed, it continues flowing over more bio-balls where the nitrites are removed. the water then continues through the wet/dry but no more processing is done and the water returns to the water column laden with nitrates.

In LR and LS, the water passes through it processing the ammonia and nitrites same as with the bio-balls. but it continues to flow through the deeper parts of the LR and LS carrying the nitrates to the anaerobic bacteria where the nitrates are removed. The nitrates returned to the water column itself are minimal (in theory).

Now I don't know if there's anyway to scientifically show how nitrate laden water moves once in the main water column as compared to ammonia laden water. Of course, the easiest way would to probably look at the molecular weight of ammonia and nitrate. No... not weight, you would need to compare denisty. It would seem that the more dense water would settle to the LR/LS and be processed.

Time to do some research............
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Old 02-02-2005, 12:57 PM   #6
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Thanks for your replies. BillyZ, I didn't really think of actually following the water as it is processed. That really makes a lot of sense now!
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Old 02-02-2005, 04:36 PM   #7
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You also might want to think on a larger scale. The bio balls have a great deal of room for bacteria but also to collect organic material that would otherwise stay in the water and be fitlered off or even eaten. With the material stuck in the bio balls it will increase your overall bio load.

Granted, if you have no other filtration, then this will happen with or without the bio balls, but if you have a skimmer, filter, ect...then the material stuck in the bio balls will never get filtered out.

That's how it was explained to me anyways. I had used bio balls for a while and even with the water going through a filter before going to the bio balls it sent my nitrates off the chart. I removed the bio balls and it dramatically dropped my nitrate levels. HTH.
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Old 02-02-2005, 09:25 PM   #8
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That makes a lot of sense too. Thanks DeNero!
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Old 02-02-2005, 10:50 PM   #9
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I'm still confused about the bioballs. I have a brand new tank less than 30 days old. It was recommended to me to use bioballs, so I did. Then my neighbors chimed in and neither of them use bioballs as I was told if you have a great protein skimmer, enough live rock and a good sand bed, you don't need them. They also use a micron filter bag as a filter inplace of the bio balls. However, my overflow box is very loud, so It was recommended to me to put some bioballs in there....which helped a lot with the noise. I was thinking of leaving the bioballs in the overflow and taking them out of the sump and just using the micron bag. I already have a nitrate problem...I know the tank is cycling, but i want to start off on the right foot. My protein skimmer just looks like it's kicking in finally as I'm getting good foam.

I appreciate any imputs....
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Old 02-03-2005, 01:37 AM   #10
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Ok someone correct me if im wrong..... If you are trying to get rid of both nitrites and nitrates, couldn't you have a your wet/dry system to harvest your aerobic bacteria to convert your ammonia and nitrites. Then in your sump put more bio balls or some other media where they will be submerged to harvest the anaerobic bacteria to kill off you nitrates??
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