Newbie: Bio-ball filtratition any good?


New member
Hi all,

I am very new to aquariums, and have loved fish ever since I was little. I have finally decided to buy one after about two weeks of studying (I never reaslised so much went into an aquarium!).

I love the fact that everything needs to be done slowly and surely, as I'm not one that likes to rush things, as well as the challenge that raising a healthy tank creates (also the sheer beauty of a healthy reef system).

Ultimately I am looking to be purchasing a 500 litre (about 130 gallons) tank to start my marine/reef aquarium. I wanted to get a larger tank as it fits well with the room I had in mind, and it will be slightly more lenient on me if I make a mistake (hopefully not too many :) ). I would rather get everything proper now so I don’t regret anything later on.

The filtration method I was intending to use was lots of live rock, a protein skimmer as well as a wet/dry biological ball (with rotating arm). It wasn’t until I stumbled across this forum that I noticed a few users mentioning to get rid of bio ball filters. I did a little more study on these and noticed that they could cause high spikes in nitrate levels if not looked after properly (something I definitely don’t want).

Could anyone please offer any advice on how I should approach this filtration dilemma? I realise that no method is the 'only way', but if you could offer me some personal pro/con’s of what you’ve used in the past, and perhaps some direction I should look at it would be highly appreciated.

By the way this is trully an awesome forum; the pictures and users posts alone are what tipped me over the edge to finally deciding to take up this challenge!



New member
just a bit more theory:

there is a portion of your biological filtration system that is nitrifying bacteria. these are the "cycle" bacteria and they convert ammonia ultimately to nitrates. they grow on surfaces and they need oxygenated water. Your live rock (LR) has adequate surfaces, PLUS the advantage that these surfaces are very close to the source of the ammonia right in the tank. this is what you want.

The deal with a wet-dry/trickle filter is that this provides a super-oxygenated high flow area which will encourage this bacteria better than upstairs. this is a pure plastic nitrate making machine because unlike LR which has DE-nitrifyers deep in the pores, it can only make nitrates with zero chance of getting rid of some too and BOOM right into the water column it goes to feed the algae.

you want the bacteria on your live rock.

If you want to start slow, start up your tank and put the LR in and let it stabilize. It may noticeably cycle if enough organics die to make lots of ammonia, or it may not cycle noticeable as the bacteria all get adjusted with lower levels of organics. Stabilization can take from a month or two to 6 months.

That would be your most solid foundation for the future. start low nutrient, add things slowly to let the bacteria re-adjust for a couple weeks each time and you will never see any ammonia or nitrites and your algae battles will go better.

edit: your attitude is very refreshing. You will win big if you ease into everything. Some days I can't even bear to try to address some of these threads where our fired up newb hasn't seen any ammonia for the 3 days since tank setup and packs 5 fish in to the 20gal on day 4, then announces how awesome everything is doing. if the fish live, the algae will take them down in 6 months, so sad.....

So, I thank you for giving me hope that some newbs do demonstrate great wisdom when they first jump in. :)
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New member
Thanks mate, makes sense.

Do you recommend I not install the protein skimmer first while cycling? I've read that they might make the cycling process take longer than necessary.

My plan is to let the whole system cycle for a month minimum and see how it fares after that. Just wondering if the protein skimmer will cause problems with this.



New member
I just setup my tank 8 days ago and it is ready to add stuff. My skimmer has run the whole time, didn't skim much because my LR was nice and established and now has dusters growing on it. I added some crabs and snails. Just check your water. if you go 5 days or so w/stable water and no water changes you can slowly add clean the up crew.