Terrible Advice Tuesdays (T.A.Tues): The BEST Replacement For Live Rock


Terrible Advice Tuesdays: The only effective media for a saltwater tank is bioballs. Live rock won’t grow nitrifying bacteria

The rest of the story: I almost spit sweet tea all over my computer monitor (again) I read this one. Properly selected live rock – i.e. rock that is very porous for starters – will work great as a biofilter media. The same fact holds true for dry rock. If it is porous, then that’s a great starting point for rock for your tank.

If someone tells you live rock or dry rock won’t work for your tank, RUN AWAY…quickly!

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Comments for this article (18)

  • Bubu 1er says:

    The terrible advice is right and wrong at the same time…

    Bioballs in a wet dry trickle filter system are one of the best nitrifying media out there. That’s why they use it in FO systems and in most public aquariums. However the process stops at changing nitrites into nitrates. That’s where live roch and anyother porous rock will step in. Works also in deep sand beds. However the trick to using live rocks is to know that eventually you’ll have to pull it out and renuew the rock. Otherwise the pores of the rock will become saturated over time and you’ll end up with old tank syndrome, green monster! So Use live rock, but after 5 -10 depending on your bioload, start replacing it. Not all at once but a bit at a time as not to disrupt the biological process…

  • Bubu 1er says:

    oops, 5- 10 years…

  • Duane says:

    I’ve heard that bioballs in a wet/dry filter can be a nitrate factory for a SW aquarium. But if the bioballs are totally submersed in the water they make for a good biofilter without the excess nitrates. Don’t know how much truth there is in this. I prefer live rock. I have LR in my tank and in my sump. All of it started as dry rock.

  • warren says:

    look up a product called cer-media. its the best arobic or anaerobic (depending on how its used), bio media ive seen. one 8x8x4in block in your sump works better than a whole tank full of live rock. I’ve got both.

  • dave says:

    hello mark seeing your post about shutting off the lights for three day’s to help combat algea do you temporarily turn on the lights (small led) to feed the fish or 100% lights out for the 72 hrs. I see benefits in both but your opinion is law as far as im concerned. thanks

  • Adam says:

    I have used Bio Balls in the past in a wet/dry filter and they worked well. But now I use Live Rock and a Deep Sand Bed to do this. I am not knocking Bio Balls but they are an older way to do things. A more natural approach works better for me.

    I have a nice display of Live Rock in the tank with a 5 inch Deep Sand Bed and I have another 30 pounds of Live Rock in the sump with water flowing through it. I use power heads (had some old ones kicking around) in my sump to keep the water moving and not letting the detritus settle anywhere. I also use a filter sock which I change out twice a week.

    This keeps my Phos down to nearly 0 and my Nitrate down to 5 – 10 PPM

  • Ken says:

    +1 for using MarinePure from Cermedia. It is by far the best bio media out on the market for wet/dry sumps. One 1.5″ sphere has the same surface area of 1350 plastic bio-balls. Then you add their 8″ block or plate and keep it submerged in the sump for the anaerobic bacteria to live. Running this media helps not having to use large amounts of live or dry rock that take up useable swimming space for this fish. My Nitrates have never been over 1ppm with one 20% water change every 3 weeks. Combine this with a GFO reactor and your tank will thank you! Been working well in my 180g FO tank with LivingColor custom rock decor.

  • Its very funny to see this topic as its often forgotten how initial saltwater systems were set up. I have used and will continue to use a wet dry chamber in my system. In the beginning it was the heart a soul of every saltwater tank. Of course that was before excellent products like Dr. Tims which kick start the biological process in the tank. Bioballs and rock are partners in that biological process. I routinely
    clean liverock surfaces which can become clogged with sediment creating phosphate elevations that reefers overlook reducing the rocks effectiveness. That’s where the turkey baster comes in. No matter how clean your tank looks wait til you give it a blow with that turkey baster. At it’s core a aquarist must have bio balance.. Good tank carma

    Old school reefer..

  • Glenn Waterman says:

    A well seasoned deep sand bed (4-6″) with lots of life in it and live rock is all I’ve ever used, never had nitrates over 0.0 (no matter how hard I try :P)

  • Thea says:

    I am a HUGE fan of Seachem and their Pond Matrix which is the larger version of their De*Nitrate. I use the Pond Matrix in my sump in place of bio balls. It has worked wonders. I also use the matrix in my fw aquarium and my pond with excellent results. I have successfully has most of my customers start using this and they each now enjoy the benefits of cleaner water. http://www.seachem.com/Products/product_pages/PondMatrix.html

  • John L says:

    I think the problem lies with using ONLY bioballs/wet dry in a reef tank setting.
    While bioballs have excellent surface area for hosting bacteria that process waste all the way to the nitrate stage, it lacks the anoxic environment to host bacteria that can further break down nitrates.

    The correct types of live rock (as well as deep sand beds) have this anoxic environment to assist with breaking down nitrates.
    In most setups that already use live rock, the bioballs become a redundancy as the live rocks’ porous surface already provides sufficient surface area for the several strains of beneficial bacteria.

  • melody miller says:

    I missed the post about turning out the lights to fight algea. Where can I find it? Thanks

  • Mithun Karmakar says:

    I never use bioballs in my tank.. Wanna know the best bio media there is? Dead Acropora/brain coral skeletons. u can buy them dirt cheap, make 1″ pieces and fill your chamber.. there is NO MEDIA or bioball or live rock that can be more porous or has more surface area.. And guess what it has a bufferring effect and also replenishes some trace elements..

  • warren says:

    mithum, I thought the same thing. it is not the case. look up cer-media. don’t be skeptical until you actually see the web site. i’m using this. after 40days in the sump. I was amazed. really.

  • Mike Mueller says:

    Warren, do you have thier website? I am running live rock in my biocube 29 but have a 120 gallon tank I want to set up next and I am very intrested.

  • dave says:

    @ warren if you get the website I would like it also. I would be interested in some

  • warren says:

    I think its just cermedia.com. remember in a reef tank you’ll want to use this anarobicly. so place in in a low flow area of your sump.

  • Rajod says:

    Thanks for the cermedia suggestion. Cermedia sounds better than gambling on live rock. Its been engineered so it will be consistent vs getting live rock which is going to have dead spots within it, areas of solid rock which just adds weight and un needed water displacement .

    Right now i gave a fo with 4 in hes of sand and 60 gallon bio ball chamber 1500 gph flow over it and a big skimmer and uv.

    I ordered 1 gallon of cermedia balls and two of the bricks.
    Not sure if i will put the new balls on top or bottom of the stack of existing ones.

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