What’s going on Salt-Nation? Jeff Hesketh here and I recently got to take a look at a bio pellets reactor for my Test Lab series. I’ve never consider using one before but after doing some research I gotta tell you I’m definitely installing one my 260 gallon build.
When doing some research on bio pellet reactors, I found a lot of hobbyist not sure when and how to use them. With this article, I wanted to remove any confusion with bio pellets and answer some questions that I found surrounding them.
What Are Bio Pellets?
Bio pellets are a biodegradable polymer that bacteria feed on. As the bacteria grow and feed on the bio pellets, this is one of the best ways to remove nitrates and some phosphates from the water. Obviously there are many ways to remove nitrates and phosphates from your aquarium but they remove them at a constant rate.
Bio pellets require a reactor pumping water from your aquarium sump into the bio pellet reactor chamber, creating a controllable, food-filled house where bacteria can live and reproduce.
Using bio pellets is a form of carbon dosing your aquarium, not to be confused with activated carbon like the media that we use to remove toxins from water. Carbon dosing certainly is not a new concept, but it has become more popular in recent years as hobbyist become more educated on the subject.
Just like anything in this hobby its important to do your research before you get started, but I would suggest this would require a little more detailed research as carbon dosing requires a good understand of aquarium husbandry.
Methods of Carbon Dosing:
It is very important to use a protein skimmer when using bio pellets. Its recommend to have the discharged water from the reactor goes directly into the protein skimmer to remove the waste from bacteria feeding on the bio pellets.
Are Bio Pellets Right for Every Saltwater Aquarium?
Bio pellets are so effective at lowering nitrates that the hobbyist can often stop using granulated ferric oxide (GFO). Bio pellets do not require as much maintenance as GFO or activated carbon it often allows hobbyist to have a set it and forget it mentality. The reactor only needs to be topped off every 2 weeks or so, depending on your aquarium’s requirements.
GFO or activated carbon need to be changed out completely every 3 weeks for GFO and every 7 days for activated carbon . This lets the hobbyist do less work while enjoying a crystal-clear water column and healthy livestock. In many cases, the use of a bio pellet reactor allows Hobbyist to feed fish freely without concern of the effect on the Bio load of the aquarium.
Hobbyists will see the best performance from using biopellets in aquariums that have a heavy biological load. Those of us who have a lot of fish or tend to feed heavy have probably dealt with problems that this can cause. A bloom of algae or cloudy water, as well as less-than-ideal growth from our corals are common effects from heavy stocking.
Here are some problems to avoid with bio pellets:
- When starting, adding a full dose of bio pellets to your system.
- Not using a protein skimmer to remove excess waste.
- Not allowing all the bio pellets to tumble.
Getting Started With Bio Pellets
When getting started with bio pellets it’s recommend to start with 1/2 the recommended dose. After a week or two you can then add the remaining dose to the reactor. When your setting up the pump to the reactor your looking for a gentle tumble on the top and a ripping boil on the bottom the pellets in the reactor. If the bio pellets are not tumbling properly this could allow for hydrogen sulfide to form in the reactor, which will not be good for your aquarium.
Allow the bacteria a couple of weeks to colonize the pellets, and make sure that you’re using an accurate test kit every few days. Some hobbyist use concentrated bacterial solutions to their aquariums to promote bacteria growth and jump start the process.
It’s important to test your water parameters while using a bio pellet reactor. It has been my experience, and I’ve heard from other successful biopellet users, that a nitrate level of 0.5 and a phosphate level of 0.03 to 0.05 is a proper level. As you approach these numbers, slow the level of pellets that you’re adding. Once your tests show these levels consistent, turn off your reactor and mark the level of the pellets so that you know when to refresh them and how much to add.
As the bacteria consumes the pellets you may notice a film being produced throughout the aquarium. This film has been known to cause cyanobacteria outbreak. Hobbyists have had great results with avoiding these outbreaks by placing the output of the reactor near the intake of the skimmer, some hobbyist have plumbed the output of the reactor to the skimmer. This ensures that all of the water coming out of the reactor is skimmed before returning to the aquarium.
It’s important to remove phosphates from the system at a level that matches that of the nitrate reduction of the bio pellet reactor. This can be accomplished via water changes, but it’s certainly not the most effective or simple method. While bio pellets can replace the need to run GFO in a system, GFO is more effective phosphate reducer. Hobbyists have found it unnecessary to continue the use of GFO in a system with bio pellets.
Bio Pellets Final Thoughts
If your looking to get started with Bio Pellets this was a great place to start. Remember, This is a more advanced subject and defiantly do your research before putting them to work in your saltwater aquarium. Now I would like to invite you to look around some more. Mad Hatter’s Reef has a lot of information for saltwater aquarium hobbyist. I wish you luck on your salty venture.
Feel free to drop me a line @ Jeff@Madhattersreef.com