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Is expensive bio media worth it?

Is expensive bio media worth it?


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    65

noobscaper

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30 Dec 2019
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Location
Warsaw, Poland
Obviously we all want the best conditions for our fish/inverts, and expensive bio media may have more surface area - but at what point does it stop being worth it (i.e. cheaper media would convert everything to nitrates anyway)? Do you guys think the expensive stuff like Seachem Matrix and Eheim Substrat Pro is worth it, or are things like lava rock and ceramic rings good enough?
Most of us don't really need the extra surface area in my own humble opinion.
 
Joined
3 Feb 2021
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26
Location
Alton
From what I understand, the more surface area, the more bacteria, and with a large enough filter, and enough media, there is a possibility you can get a full cycle.

I don't know whether I am achieving a "full cycle" in my Fluval 307. It's loaded with Matrix Bio Media and currently 'on-loan' to my Father-in-law's (we've recently moved house). He's not kept to such a strenuous maintenance routine (bi-weekly water changes have become bi-monthly), not that you would know. When I check-in, the parameters are where I would expect them to be after a week, not two, and I've suffered no fish loss in the six months he's had them. It's a heavily stocked tank, too.

For this reason, my next build will also see the filter (Fluval 207) loaded with Matrix Bio Media. I don't plan to give this one to the Father-in-law though!
 

noobscaper

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Warsaw, Poland
Bio Media worth a read and you humble opinion is correct :thumbup:
That's pretty eye opening actually - figured there would be more filter media elitists here (given it's sort of a boutique aquascaping forum) but the opposite seems to be true! Tempted to change my ceramic rings out for those pot scrubbers now haha. Now where do I get them in Poland...
 

Angus

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29 Aug 2008
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654
Location
Vauxhall, London.
i'd love more expensive media, but if i'm honest there are just better more bang for your buck things to spend my money on.

I just use what i have lying around.... got bags of media in dark nether regions all over the place... :lol:

You can also get unbranded alfagrog for very cheap which is a very high surface area media that is FAR cheaper than branded stuff.
 

dw1305

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nr Bath
Hi all,
Do you guys think the expensive stuff
Floating cell media (like <"Kaldnes K1 media">) might offer advantages, purely in that it <"sheds excess biofilm"> when it gets too deep. If some-one else is buying? I'll have <"Eheim Substrat Pro (coco-pops)">, because they are a good shape (spherical) and they don't break up, but not for any of their <"alleged magical properties">.
From what I understand, the more surface area, the more bacteria, and with a large enough filter, and enough media, there is a possibility you can get a full cycle.
It is all <"smoke and mirrors">. Actually if you did get <"the full nitrification ~ denitrification arc"> it would just show that you are teetering on the edge of your <"filter media becoming anaerobic"> and that <"disaster was imminent">.
It's a heavily stocked tank, too.
Have a look at <"Bio Media for planted tanks">.
They are, but there are also a couple of provisos. <"The Science of Aquariums"> is a very reputable (and scientifically referenced) web site, but the owner/scientist mainly keeps <"Rift Lake Cichlids in non-planted tanks"> at (what we would call) very high stocking densities.

This fish keeping methodology means that his filters will rapidly grow a <"thick, sticky biofilm"> in a way that doesn't occur in our filters.

A-Well-Functioning-Aquarium-Filter-768x535.jpg

Caption: "A Well Functioning Aquarium Filter" from <"6. Filtration">

Because of this non-clogging media, (like washing-up scrubbies and floating cell media are always <"going to perform well">), because they won't clog.

cheers Darrel
 

CJM70

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17 Nov 2021
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149
Location
Brighton
Fascinating read, this post. It kind of explodes the theory that I have always subscribed to that the better filter media can host the more beneficial bacteria. Green Aqua in Hungary, at one point, even went so far as to replace the buyer media in Oase filters purchased from them, with seachem matrix. Richard Thew, the Pondguru, known for helping create the filter media called biohome, is also a massive proponent of the theory that certain bio media can achieve a full cycle, that is to say reduction in nitrates as well as nitrates and ammonia.

It’s interesting, because in the past I dabbled in keeping marine fish. It was common belief among marine aquarists that live rock provided aquarium filtration that did exactly what we are saying something similar does not do in freshwater aquariums. That is to say, that as water passed through the micro channels in the live rock, nitrates were reduced as the final stage of the filtration cycle. Is this not essentially the same thing? And by definition does that mean that marine aquarists are wrong in their belief about live rock?
 

Angus

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29 Aug 2008
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654
Location
Vauxhall, London.
Fascinating read, this post. It kind of explodes the theory that I have always subscribed to that the better filter media can host the more beneficial bacteria. Green Aqua in Hungary, at one point, even went so far as to replace the buyer media in Oase filters purchased from them, with seachem matrix. Richard Thew, the Pondguru, known for helping create the filter media called biohome, is also a massive proponent of the theory that certain bio media can achieve a full cycle, that is to say reduction in nitrates as well as nitrates and ammonia.

It’s interesting, because in the past I dabbled in keeping marine fish. It was common belief among marine aquarists that live rock provided aquarium filtration that did exactly what we are saying something similar does not do in freshwater aquariums. That is to say, that as water passed through the micro channels in the live rock, nitrates were reduced as the final stage of the filtration cycle. Is this not essentially the same thing? And by definition does that mean that marine aquarists are wrong in their belief about live rock?
My thinking is more when you are talking about microporous materials the margins between the material types are quite small, while porous rock and volcanic pumices perform better than say bio balls or ceramic rings, the brand really does not matter in my opinion, and who's to say the effect is even that great in a planted tank, the plants themselves are a great nitrate user and will soon exhaust their supply, in a marine setup that's the whole point of triton method and refugiums with live rock and macros, but the macros will definitely be doing more than the life rock in regards to nitrates and phosphates.

Also more often than not the proponents of these medias generally have a vested interested in promoting theirs as the most effective biological filtration ever seen to man.

That's what i think anyway. :thumbup:
 

erwin123

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4 Mar 2021
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Singapore
For smaller tanks, buying fancy media is not going to break the bank and most canisters come with free media- Seachem says 250ml for a 200 litre tank. So you can safely assume that in a planted tank where plants are the filter, you probably need a whole lot less than that. The main issue to me is the flow reduction caused by unnecessarily loading your filter with fancy media.

I confess that before I discovered UKAPS, I had also loaded my canister filters with Matrix/3DM. But after reading these threads that flow is king, I have been gradually reducing the amount of fancy media in my canister filters and don't detect any negative effects on my aquarium.

I have also never seen a 'full cycle' - I had previously experimented with a small Eheim filter running at an actual output of 150 litres/hour loaded with Seachem Matrix and Denitrate which is allegedly slow enough for 'denitrification' to take place (according to Seachem's product info for their DeNitrate product) but I saw no change to the nitrate level.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Richard Thew, the Pondguru, known for helping create the filter media called biohome, is also a massive proponent of the theory that certain bio media can achieve a full cycle, that is to say reduction in nitrates as well as nitrates and ammonia.
It is like @Angus says, he has a <"product to sell">, but what he doesn't have is any scientific research to back up his claims. I've not used "Biohome", but I would be happy to, I'm pretty sure there is nothing wrong (or special) about it. If he (or <"Dr Kevin Novak"> etc) want to <"show me the money"?> I'll take their claims a lot more seriously.
My first thought would be, why would a ‘full cycle’ even if possible, be a goal for a planted tank. In a planted tank, we add nitrate on purpose so it is not a bad thing!
Exactly that, using plants to both <"remove, and monitor, your fixed nitrogen levels"> is a no-brainer in a freshwater aquarium.
That is to say, that as water passed through the micro channels in the live rock, nitrates were reduced as the final stage of the filtration cycle. Is this not essentially the same thing? And by definition does that mean that marine aquarists are wrong in their belief about live rock?
You can definitely get denitrification in sediments etc. so it may well happen in "live rock". If it happens in "live rock", a "deep sand bed", <"Jaubert plenum", "denitrifying coil", "biocenosis bucket"> or a freshwater substrate that is absolutely fine. I've had an interest in waste water treatment via my "day job" and there is plenty of scientific research on constructed wetlands etc. which looks at the incorporation<" of nitrogen isotopes"> etc. during nitrification.

cheers Darrel
 
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Wookii

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Nottingham
Floating cell media (like <"Kaldnes K1 media">) might offer advantages, purely in that it <"sheds excess biofilm"> when it gets too deep. If some-one else is buying? I'll have <"Eheim Substrat Pro (coco-pops)">, because they are a good shape (spherical) and they don't break up, but not for any of their <"alleged magical properties">.

+1 to this - in fact I'd always go for the floating plastic media over any other type now in fact having lived with it now for some time, I'd pick it over Eheim's Coco pops or Seachem Matrix. I use the Oase Hel-X plastic media that comes with the Oase filters, which is similar to the K1 product.

As Darrel says, it's self cleaning - I never have to clean mine (though I do pre-filter), so is largely maintenance free. It floats so you presumably get some media movement in the filter. It results in minimal flow restriction and and it literally lasts for ever - there is no need to ever replace it, it'll never clog or break down. If you want to completely clean it (i.e. get rid of the bacterial population for good) a quick dip in bleach solution brings it back to its brand new white colouration. Other than good old sponge, I wouldn't use anything else now.
 

Nick potts

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25 Sep 2014
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Torbay
It was common belief among marine aquarists that live rock provided aquarium filtration that did exactly what we are saying

LR is good at biofiltration (ammonia>nitrite>nitrate), but if it is able to perform denitrification it does so in a very limited way. Marine aquarists spend fortunes on nitrate removal and reduction methods which to me shows LR is not a good denitrification method
 

KirstyF

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25 Jul 2021
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485
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Kidderminster
LR is good at biofiltration (ammonia>nitrite>nitrate), but if it is able to perform denitrification it does so in a very limited way. Marine aquarists spend fortunes on nitrate removal and reduction methods which to me shows LR is not a good denitrification method

This link appears to support that hypothesis! 👍


Although in fairness, will there be others to refute it?….sure there will be, it’s the internet! 😂
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I'd always go for the floating plastic media over any other type now in fact having lived with it now for some time, I'd pick it over Eheim's Coco pops or Seachem Matrix.
If you look at aquaculture systems, where they are looking for both maximum bang for their buck and efficient nitrification, they overwhelmingly <"use floating cell media"> in <"moving bed bioreactors (MBBRs)">. <"Aquarium Science"> is also a fan.

Kaldnes media was developed in Norway for <"wastewater treatment"> and subsequently used in <"Salmon smolt production">, Salmonid fish have <"very high water quality requirements">.

This reference is from Hüpeden, J. et al. (2020) <"Taxonomic and functional profiling of nitrifying biofilms in freshwater, brackish and marine RAS biofilters"> Aquacultural Engineering, 90.
In recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), the crucial step of eliminating toxic N compounds like ammonia and nitrite is mediated via nitrifying microorganisms and takes place in biofilters. In this study, analyses of microorganisms colonizing biocarriers of nine moving-bed biofilters of three different RAS operated with freshwater, brackish or marine process water uncovered site specific communities...............
Another interesting part of the Hüpeden, et al. paper was that they didn't find any ammonia oxidising archaea (AOA) in the biofilters, possibly due to the very large ammonia loading.

This is from <"Shitu, A., et al. (2021) "Recent advances in application of moving bed bioreactors for wastewater treatment from recirculating aquaculture systems: A review" Aquaculture and Fisheries">
....... RAS wastewater treatment using a moving bed bioreactors (MBBRs) process has been considered well suited for maintaining good water quality, thereby making fish farming more sustainable......This review highlights an updated overview of recent development made using MBBR to treat the residual water from RAS. Precisely, nitrification and simultaneous nitrification-denitrification (SND), and other hybrid processes for nitrogen removal were elucidated.
This is from <"Luo, G., Xu J., & Meng, H. (2020) "Nitrate accumulation in biofloc aquaculture systems" Aquaculture 520">
...... The reduction of NO3−-N is often found in biofloc aquaculture systems..............However, denitrification ... can happen in anoxic conditions. DO in aquaculture systems needs to be maintained at 5 mg/L or above to support aquatic animal. Therefore, DNRA and denitrification will not be the dominant pathways of nitrate. That is why nitrates accumulate easily in these systems. Aerobic denitrification process reduces NO3−-N or NO2−-N to N2 under aerobic environment (Robertson et al., 1988), which may play an important contribution in the biofloc aquaculture systems (Kong et al., 2018; Deng et al., 2019). However, the high level of NO3−-N suggested that aerobic denitrification was not ongoing efficiently in the biofloc aquaculture systems.......

cheer Darrel
 
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dw1305

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Hi all,
<"This link"> appears to support that hypothesis! 👍 Although in fairness, will there be others to refute it?…
I don't have any experience of keeping marine aquariums, but the paper quoted looks entirely plausible.

Nitrate (NO3-) accumulation is always going to be more <"of an issue for marine aquarists">, because they have less access to water changes and <"higher plants">.

One of the papers citing:

Li, Y., Zheng, X., Yang, X., Ou, D., Lin, R. and Liu, X., (2017). "Effects of live rock on removal of dissolved inorganic nitrogen in coral aquaria". Acta Oceanologica Sinica, 36(12), pp.87-94.

Looks very interesting*, but is only tangentially related to the OP's question, so I'll post it as a new thread on the <"Marine forum">.

*<"Relieving pressure from coral reefs: Artificial oyster rocks can replace reef rocks used for biological filtration in marine aquariums">

cheers Darrel
 
Last edited:

KirstyF

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Looks very interesting*, but is only tangentially related to the OP's question, so I'll post it as a new thread on the <"Marine forum">.

Yep, we kinda went off into left field again. Happens a lot on this forum huh! 😂

Please do re-post as appropriate 👍 and thanks to the OP for their patience. 😊
 

CJM70

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17 Nov 2021
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Brighton
Oh my word! What an amazing response, thanks everyone. I guess I was kind of expecting the answers that you have all given, although in no way could I have hoped for the detail into which you have gone. At some point if I had half the technical understanding displayed in your replies, I would be a happy man.

One of my problems is I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt too much. I guess that means I am somewhat naive at times. Yes I suppose the proponents of this product or that product generally have a vested interest as was suggested above. Sometimes I like to think that besides the vested interest, there is also a degree of honesty and integrity.
so one good thing that has come out of this post for me is that I won’t be spending vast amounts of money on expensive media.

In fact I will probably plant for the plastic K1 type media some of which seems to come with the filter in the first place.

I do have a question about plastic media though. If it floats and is moved around in the media tray by the flow of water, does it make a noise? I have seen some standard K1 filters where are you see lots of the little plastic nodules swirling around like crazy and it can be quite noisy.

Also since we are talking about various filter media, is Purigen as good as it is made out to be? And how about carbon filtration? One of the things I am very keen on achieving his crystal Clearwater.

I realise that flow is of vital importance, so I would be interested to know what set up many of you are using, and in which order. My understanding is that mechanical filtration comes first, and there is the benefit of the pre-filter section. Next is biological filtration, and last but not least is chemical filtration.

Do the Oase uses among us just stick with the density of foam provided, or do you put some medium or fine grade in as well? And how about filter floss? Obviously that would have a big effect on flow I would imagine.

I was thinking about replying to everyone’s comments individually on one large multiquote reply, But instead I would just like to thank all of you for the detail you have gone into.

Looking forward to knowing about how everyone has gone about setting up their filters.
 

Wookii

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Nottingham
My understanding is that mechanical filtration comes first, and there is the benefit of the pre-filter section. Next is biological filtration, and last but not least is chemical filtration.

Do the Oase uses among us just stick with the density of foam provided, or do you put some medium or fine grade in as well? And how about filter floss? Obviously that would have a big effect on flow I would imagine.

I have two of the Oase filters, the 600 Thermo and the 850 Thermo. I set both up the same way.

Firstly drill a load of extra holes in the pre-filter tube. It helps by significantly reducing the flow reduction as the pre-filter sponges clog and can cut your time between pre-filter cleans (I go about 2-3 weeks now on my high tech, even longer on the low tech).

Many people opt for the coarse orange pre-filter sponges. I've used all three types and prefer the medium blue ones on my high-tech and the fine black ones on my low tech. I find no difference in flow between any of them (once the holes are added to the pre-filter tube), they only differ in the size of the particles they capture and the rate they clog and need washing. In a tank with lots of stem plants (that naturally tend to shed more leaves and generate more detritus etc) I would stick with blue, but on tanks with slow growing plants like epiphytes, echinodorus etc, the black is great as it stops pretty much any detritus getting through to the main filter.

I cleaned my high tech filter out this weekend just gone, for the first time since rescaping in June. It was as clean as a whistle - literally there was barely any mulm in the bottom, I really didn't need to clean it - I'm leaving it a year until the next clean!

For the media my preferred order is as follows; blue sponge (acts as a secondary pre-filter for any mulm that collects in the base of the filter, but also biological filtration) -> plastic media in all middle trays -> thin orange sponge filter (post filter to trap any mulm released from the other media) -> filter floss (cut to size from a flat sheet).

In theory you could do away with the thin orange sponge and the filter floss (which I know Darrel won't like), but I find the floss works well to capture the finest particles that make their way through the filter, and is possibly the only thing I'd replace more regularly than a year (maybe every 6 months).

As for Purigen, I think its useful during tank start-up when the system might produce a lot of organics that it can't necessarily digest and cope with, but I think the benefits are limited on a mature tank. Purigen is also a no go if you want to supplement the tank with botanicals, or botanical extract liquids and the like (as I do) as the Purigen strips them straight back out. If you do use it, you can place it after the thin orange foam.
 

CJM70

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Brighton
I have two of the Oase filters, the 600 Thermo and the 850 Thermo. I set both up the same way.
which would you recommend for an Oase styleline 85 tank? For the small difference in price between the 250 and 350, I’m thinking going for the 350 (thermo of course).
Firstly drill a load of extra holes in the pre-filter tube. It helps by significantly reducing the flow reduction as the pre-filter sponges clog and can cut your time between pre-filter cleans (I go about 2-3 weeks now on my high tech, even longer on the low tech).
did you drill the extra holes at the same diameter as the originals and how many more did you go for? Twice as many, three times as many?
Many people opt for the coarse orange pre-filter sponges. I've used all three types and prefer the medium blue ones on my high-tech and the fine black ones on my low tech. I find no difference in flow between any of them (once the holes are added to the pre-filter tube), they only differ in the size of the particles they capture and the rate they clog and need washing. In a tank with lots of stem plants (that naturally tend to shed more leaves and generate more detritus etc) I would stick with blue, but on tanks with slow growing plants like epiphytes, echinodorus etc, the black is great as it stops pretty much any detritus getting through to the main filter.
Coarse it is then. How about black in the first tray?
I cleaned my high tech filter out this weekend just gone, for the first time since rescaping in June. It was as clean as a whistle - literally there was barely any mulm in the bottom, I really didn't need to clean it - I'm leaving it a year until the next clean!
now that I like the sound of.
For the media my preferred order is as follows; blue sponge (acts as a secondary pre-filter for any mulm that collects in the base of the filter, but also biological filtration) -> plastic media in all middle trays -> thin orange sponge filter (post filter to trap any mulm released from the other media) -> filter floss (cut to size from a flat sheet).
I do like the idea of using filter floss just as a final polish but does it not affect the flow rate?
In theory you could do away with the thin orange sponge and the filter floss (which I know Darrel won't like), but I find the floss works well to capture the finest particles that make their way through the filter, and is possibly the only thing I'd replace more regularly than a year (maybe every 6 months).

As for Purigen, I think its useful during tank start-up when the system might produce a lot of organics that it can't necessarily digest and cope with, but I think the benefits are limited on a mature tank. Purigen is also a no go if you want to supplement the tank with botanicals, or botanical extract liquids and the like (as I do) as the Purigen strips them straight back out. If you do use it, you can place it after the thin orange foam.
Good to know that you don’t really need to use Purigen permanently. It looks like it is expensive. And a bit of a PITA to do constant regeneration.

thanks again.
 
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