Biological Filter Media - Improve Nitrification, Prevent Nuisance Algae, and Stop Pests!
Ceramic media is primarily used in a saltwater aquarium to provide extra surface area for beneficial nitrifying bacteria to colonize and grow. This nitrifying bacteria is fundamental to the health and stability of any aquarium and while it is most commonly used to simply boost the bacterial foundation in an existing aquarium, it can also be extremely beneficial when cycling a new aquarium.
What Is Bio Media?
Bio media can come in a few different forms, most often plastic bio-balls (freshwater aquariums) or porous ceramic media like Brightwell Aquatics Xport and Marinepure. The ceramic media provide up to x100+ more surface area than plastic bio-balls and are the most effective choice in providing surface area for bacteria to colonize. A single Marinepure Bio-sphere measuring 1.5" in diameter provides as much surface area as 1300+ plastic bio balls.
Ceramic Media is extremely porous which means water can actually flow through media as well as around the outside of the media which means the aerobic nitrifying bacteria can colonize throughout the entirety of the media. The aerobic bacteria then help to convert toxic ammonia and nitrite into nitrates. It should be noted that bio-media is NOT capable of removing nitrates, at least this is not the primary function of bio media and it should not be relied upon as an effective means of nitrate reduction or removal.
How To Use Bio Media
Ceramic media comes in spheres, bricks, cubes, plates, and even pebble-size granules; all of which work the same exact way and typically just choose the media that best suites the space you have. For example, a brick will work great for submerging into a sump chamber while plates can slide in between sump baffles. Spheres and granules can be placed inside a media bag and placed into AIO aquariums or inside of a hang-on filter.
You want to place the media somewhere where water can easily flow through it. The media must stay submerged and will take 1-2 weeks to colonize with bacteria and become effective. You won't ever need to replace the media but if you let it dry out, the bacteria will die. You may consider rinsing the media with clean saltwater every so often to remove any trapped debris which is especially helpful when using bio media inside of media bags where detritus can easily become trapped.
Why Should I Use Bio Media?
In most saltwater aquariums, the surfaces of the rock and sand provide sufficient surface area for bacteria to grow. Bio-media simply reinforces that bacterial foundation and comes in especially useful for bare bottom aquariums, heavy-bioload situations, and quarantine tanks. Even if your tank doesn't necessarily NEED extra bio-media, it never hurts to have some in your sump or filtration compartment because you never know when it might come in handy.
Transferring established bio-media into a new aquarium carries the nitrifying bacteria with it meaning that the new tank can safely process ammonia and nitrate instantaneously. The transferred bacteria will then seed the recipient tank with healthy bacteria and help colonize new sand and rock. This is great if you need to set up a quarantine tank in a hurry or when establishing a new tank.
What many folks don't realize is that bio-media will not typically harbor photosynthetic pests or algae because it is kept in dark filtration compartments that don't receive enough light to sustain these organisms. Therefore, when you transfer the bio-media into a new aquarium, you are unlikely going to be moving the uglies such as algae, cyanobacteria, diatoms, or dinoflagellates. This is extremely helpful when establishing a new aquarium because you get the benefit of a transferred biome without a huge risk of creating a breakout of pests.
Seeding Fresh Ceramic Media
If you don't have the luxury of using established bio media, you can still take some steps to help inoculate the new media with bacteria before it goes into your tank. While this won't be quite as effective as using established media, you will help move the cycle process along and add beneficial strains of bacteria to your new aquarium.
- Rinse new bio media with RO/DI water to remove dust and residue.
- Place media into a bucket or bowl filled with fresh seawater.
- Add a bacteria supplement to the bucket such as MicroBacter 7, TurboStart, Dr. Tim's One & Only, or BioSpira.
- Soak for 24 hours before placing media into the new aquarium.
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