View Full Version : bio balls

03-29-2004, 07:39 AM
Can someone explain these to me..

are they beneficial..

what they do..

should I look at getting some..

where in your tank do they go..

I remember a thread somewhere about them, but I am on my 14th hour at work and thought maybe someone would know off the top of their head :drink:

thanks :ok:

03-29-2004, 08:07 AM
(O.K........ but don't read this if you bore easily!)

Lots of confusion surrounding these........ some people (and some fish stores) seem to believe they are the Holy Grail of fishkeeping and use them incorrectly (or at least in a manner that minimizes their efficiency).

Bioballs are simple plastic structures that are designed to have water easily pass through them (all those little knobs, etc. break up the flow of water). They are designed for use in WET/DRY applications NOT submerged applications. The purpose of the bioballs is to encourage bacterial colonization on their surface while allowing atmospheric oxygen to mix with the water that trickles over them. That dramatically increases the effectiveness of the bacterial processes (chiefly nitrification) that "biologically" filters aquarium water.

Now, the mixing of air and water cannot happen if the balls are submerged. Many hobbyists incorrectly put bioballs in canister filters, etc. (and a distressing number of LFSs use them incorrectly too; some just float them). That doesn't harm anything, but it certainly does not allow one to utilize their canister filtration to its best.

See, bioballs have a fair amount of surface area but nowhere near the amount that is found on some other types of media (lava rock, ceramic rings, etc.). Those other medias are meant for submerged applications. The bacteria in such an application is not as efficient as it is in a wet/dry situation, so there needs to be more of it, so you need high surface area in a canister,etc.

In addition, many people use that high surface area material (incorrectly) in a wet/dry filter thinking they will "super charge" their biological filtration. That usually results in the media becoming clogged. Bioballs are designed to avoid this problem due to their open structure.

The whole "super charging" approach is based on a false assumption since you wil never have more beneficial bacteria in a system than that system's wasteload will support. You can have tons of media, but it will just have its bacterial flora thinnly spread throughout.

Then, there is the fact that the structure of bioballs encourages vigorous degassing of water as it splashes and trickles through the bio-tower. That degassing doesn't occur very effectively when using improper media in a wet/dry filter.

So........ if you have a wet/dry filter, the best thing to use is bio-balls. If you have any filtration system that would submerge them, you need something else.

03-29-2004, 09:02 AM
very informative... thanks chc

so they would be used in big aquariums, in canister filters where the water can run over/through them and into another portion of the filter and back into the tank.. if I read correctly =)


03-29-2004, 09:13 AM
Echoing Fishead: What an informative reply, Chris. Your explanation not only promotes a specific understanding of how and why bio-balls work (and don't work) but also helps to further "de-mystify" biological filtration in general.

I learn something every day on this board from y'all. Thanks!

03-29-2004, 09:15 AM
Chris that was awesome. I almost want to pay the enourmous amounts that they charge for the little space balls now!!

03-29-2004, 09:24 AM
I wanted to ask you Chris. Does the same concept apply to biobeads for say a fluval canister?

03-29-2004, 09:26 AM
you will need alot of bio-balls once u get the silicone you need

03-29-2004, 10:24 AM
:rofl: good one, fishead...

Thanks, great info, chc! :D

I float a few bioballs around my oscar tank, they seem to like to play with them. I have a pretty good current in that tank and they whiz around & the oscars like to chase them. So, that being said, after reading your thread I conclude that they're just toys (oh well, that's what I put them in there for anyway - ping pong balls were just way too loud when they'd hit the hood)... :lol:

03-29-2004, 10:41 AM
you will need alot of bio-balls once u get the silicone you need



If you want cheaper bioballs you can buy shotgun shell wads from a sporting goods store. You will get a huge bag for under $10. They are little, plastic and have as much surface area as bioballs.

03-29-2004, 12:05 PM
Your bioballs are being colonized to some degree just by floating them in your tank. I often float several hundred in various tanks in an effort to jump start the cycling of a new wet/dry filter. I also use them as toys though. One of my big guys loves tossing them around in his endless search for food!

Not exactly....... not in canister filters, but in specific wet/dry filters. Remember, the key is to keep the water level below that of the bioballs so that they are only exposed to splashing and trickling as the water is pured over them.

If I remember correctly, biobeads are a submerged media, but those new shotgun shells work just fine at a much cheaper cost (important for those DIYers with six foot tall bio-towers!).

03-29-2004, 12:21 PM
Thought I'd post a pic to make it easier to see. The water level in this sump is just below the lowest layer of bioballs. They are exposed except for the water trickling over them (after it is poured into the micron bag, flows down to the bottom of the left chamber, flows back up the baffled chamber, spills over the top and trickles through the drip plate over the bioballs).


03-29-2004, 12:28 PM
Chris that is the most strategically placed stack of bioballs I have ever seen!

I love that sump.

03-29-2004, 12:31 PM
Thanks. Those balls lock together so I could maximize the number in the sump...... biopin balls I think...... three cubic feet total!