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amahler 05-07-2005 12:33 PM

Bio-ball to LR transition status

I received 40 pounds of live base rock from on Wednesday (previous post here) and started the transition away from bio-balls. I initally removed most of the bio-balls, put most of the live rock in the sump and the remaining live rock in the tank. I also did about a 1/4 - 1/3 water change after putting it all in there.

On Thursday morning I did my first water checks. I'd previously been at 0 ammonia, 0 nitrites, perfect pH and off the chart on nitrates. The new test was 0.25 ammonia (up a notch), up one notch on nitrites on the color card (don't remember the measurement) and my pH went down a couple of notches. I did another 1/4 - 1/3 water change and, having chickened out a little on such a large transition, put 75% of the bio-balls back in. I had removed them into a bucket of their own water and kept them soaking. Since it was less than 24 hours by then, I figured they were still active enough to resume their role until I got over the hump. I shifted more of the sump rock into the tank to make room and repacked it with bio-balls.

Friday morning's water test showed the levels being virtually the same as Thursday... MAYBE trending downward, but too close to call. pH was perfect again (more or less). On the bright side, I was two days into the transition and nothing was skyrocketing. Holding ground seemed good.

I did a 1/3 water change late last night (Friday - technically wee enough hours to be early this morning). I've just checked my levels here at 11:00 AM Saturday morning and I'm:

Ammonia - lower and almost back to 0
Nitrites - 0 again (woohoo!)
pH - Dead on normal at about 8.2

So, it looks like I'm getting over the mini-spike if I'm reading this right. I plan to do another partial water change either tonight or early tomorrow morning to keep ahead of things and hopefully knock out that last bit of ammonia.

I'm certain my nitrates are still off the chart with most of the bio-balls there. I doubt the new rock is offsetting it yet or maybe it never can with the bio-balls being such a factory.

The next step now is to take it slowly on the bio-ball removal. I've ready most people suggesting 20% per week or so. Does this sound reasonable? Should I expect to see little spikes in the process or will the rock start to hold it all on its own by that time?

- Aaron

amahler 05-09-2005 11:03 AM

For those interested (some had written and said they wanted a status as they considered the same process), my numbers were almost perfect yesterday and right where I want them this morning.

Nitrite: 0
Ammonia: 0
pH: ~8.2
SG: ~1.022 (raising this slowly)

Nitrates are still insane but look as if they -might- have come down a tiny bit. Until the bio-balls start to come out in larger numbers, I doubt I'll see much improvement in that area.

I've done four or five water changes since last week - each around 20 gallons (this is a 90 gallon tank). Seems like a lot, maybe, but I wanted to help the process along as much as possible with as little spiking as possible. I'm going to leave it alone a few days now and only change it if the levels start to creep up and then get on a more normal cycle.

I'm also going to wait at least a few days or maybe until the end of the week to do the next 20% removal of bio-balls. I'll keep you posted on levels.

Because of the volume of water I'm needing, I've been buying and using Wal-Mart jugs of "Drinking Water". This is a green label/cap and is RO, DI, microfilter, carbon filter and maybe a few more steps. It's 58 cents a jug and I've been buying about 21 at a time. REALLY makes for a heavy, poor-cornering cart and a lot of strange looks. I, frankly, despise Wal-Mart... but I've got little choice in this case since I don't see other sources in my area that are comparable and I don't have my RO unit up and running well yet.

Keep ya posted...
- Aaron

Scatcat 05-09-2005 11:36 AM

Humm I'll be doing this soon myself, intesting. I hope my tank don't cycle when I do either.


amahler 05-09-2005 11:50 AM


My levels only took a very minor jump (aside from nitrates which were insane already and most of the reason I'm even making this change) and only for a couple of days. They might NOT have jumped at all had I left most of the bio-balls in during the first day. I think I took too many out too soon... but since I'd kept them submerged in a bucket, I was able to put 75% of them back the next morning when my levels started to spike a bit.

Anyway - there has been no loss of life or other catastrophes as of yet and now that my levels are back to normal, I'd say it's been worth it (again, aside from nitrates).

We'll see, though, as I start to pull bio-balls in the coming week(s).

- Aaron

Scatcat 05-09-2005 12:26 PM

Ok then, so I'll add the rock first, then over the next couple of days take a ball out, then the next week another, and the following another,ect. I should be good then. See you can learn from other people.


Scatcat 05-09-2005 12:38 PM

How much LR do you think went into your sump?


amahler 05-09-2005 08:55 PM

How big are your... (ahem)... balls that removing one at a time would have an impact? ;)

For me, 20% or so a week might be a few dozen each time.

As for how much rock is in the sump... I started closer to 50/50 before I decided to put most of the balls back in place. When I did that, I moved half or so of the sump rock up into the tank.

Technically speaking, I suppose it shouldn't matter so terribly much whether the rock is in the sump or in the tank. Any thoughts on that from anyone? I will say that the rock in the sump is humming with life to a degree that I don't think I'm seeing on the rock in the tank. That might just be the luck of the draw... but I see snails and little anemones and other various things doing rather well on the sump rock (what little of it I can examine through the side).

Anyway, to visually answer your question, here is where I started before swapping more bio-balls back:

And here I am right now (took this picture for this reply):

Hope that helps!
- Aaron

maxamillion 05-09-2005 10:46 PM

you wont see as much life on the rock in the tank, because its is a food source for many fish/inverts... its mostly just in the rock, down in the sump there are no predators... hence the many **Seen** critters


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