Popular discount retailer, Bulk Reef Supply has released their version of the Bio Pellet that we made famous among our readers way back in 2009. The solid carbon dosing bio pellets are popular for helping to remove nitrates from your aquarium and until recently these things were very expensive. When we first covered these Bio Pellets they were retailing for around $75 for a 500ml bag, and that didn’t include the cost to get them shipped from Europe to your home. As with all new products it took some time (a little over a year) for these distribution chain to catch up but it finally did. Slashing about 50% in savings to you. Hit up a read link for more details about the Bio Pellets.
We recommend 1 cup (236 ml) of BRS biopellets per 50 gallons of system volume. BRS Bio Pellet Instructions
Solid carbon dosing (bio pellets) has recently become an extremely popular method of removing nitrates from the aquarium. The exact method of denitration can be different for each tank but it mainly consists of a few things:
* Nitrate laden Bacteria is removed via the protein skimmer
* Bacteria directly converts nitrite into nitrous oxide so nitrate is never produced
* Bacteria consumes nitrates and processes them down into nitrogen gas
* Nitrate laden Bacteria is consumed by tank inhabitants like corals and sponges
Depending on the system it should take 4-8 weeks for the bacteria population to multiply and begin its work on your nitrates. Once you have the reactor going we suggest not making any adjustments for 8 weeks. Give the media and bacteria time to adjust to the parameters found in your tank and begin working. Even small adjustments to the reactor can change the parameters inside the reactor and slow down the results. Please keep in mind that while solid carbon dosing (bio pellets) has become extremely popular it is very new to saltwater aquaria. There is a lot of good theory on why it works so well for most aquarists but some struggle to see results which means you may need to adjust some parameters to achieve best results. Because there are so many variables it’s often difficult to determine what might be holding an aquarist back. These are some of the most common variables that would affect the how the system works: starting nitrate levels, phosphorous (phosphate) levels, dominant strains of bacteria in the tank, use of additional commercial bacteria strains such as zeobak, types of live stock, protein skimmer size and quality, where the effluent of the reactor is fed, use of UV sterilizers, potassium levels, amount of light surrounding the reactor, type and amount of fish and coral foods used and speed at which the media is tumbling.
Because there are so many variables it is difficult to give a one size fits all advice for this product but this is the sweet spot where we have found the most success with the above variables.
* Most customers will use this system to reduce already high nitrate levels and then maintain them at the new low levels. This means the bacterial load is going to go through constant adjustment as the nitrate levels drop and add complexity to the beginning stages of starting the system. You may also choose to use a series of larger water changes near each other to get the levels down before starting the bio pellet system. This will keep the parameter changes to a minimum and remove a level of complexity during the initial stages. Either way please allow 8 weeks before making any changes.
* Bacteria require small amounts of phosphorous to metabolize nitrate properly and phosphate levels theoretically could be a limiting factor for this system. For this reason we recommend not using phosphate removal products like GFO during the initial phase when you are trying to lower nitrate levels. Once you have the nitrate levels down we recommend continuing the use of GFO to maintain optimal parameters in the tank. You may find that your GFO lasts longer when used in conjunction with the bio pellet system. We find that the Hanna PO4 checker is the best tool to test phosphate levels because it provides reliable easy to read readings.
* It is difficult to control the dominant strains of bacteria in the aquarium, however continual dosing of beneficial bacteria strains found in supplements such as zeobak can help with this.
* We do not think commercial bacteria products are absolutely required but they have the potential to speed the process up and control types of bacteria. This is certainly something we would recommend trying if you are having difficulty with the system.
* Some corals and sponges will consume the nitrate laden bacteria which will effectively reduce the amount of nitrate available in the water column.
* The skimmer will remove a lot of the nitrate laden bacteria so a high quality skimmer will greatly increase the effectiveness of the system.
* Feeding the effluent of the bio pellet reactor directly into the protein skimmer or near the protein skimmer’s intake pump can significantly increase the efficiency of the system by helping it remove the nitrate laden bacteria.
* A high quality UV sterilizer will damage the bacteria’s DNA and keep it from reproducing which could slow down your results and inhibit the effectiveness. If you own a low quality UV sterilizer the benefits are pretty minimal to begin with so we recommend completely removing it from the system. If you have invested in a high quality UV sterilizer we feel the benefits are substantial so you should try and incorporate it into your system rather than remove it. We recommend turning the UV sterilizer off until you have achieved results with the bio pellets and then turning the UV sterilizer back on.
* Some aquarists believe potassium could be a limiting factor. We recommend levels around 380ml/l . With this system this can typically be achieved with a quality salt mix and a reasonable water change schedule.
* We recommend keeping the reactor in a dark area to limit the amount of other organisms living inside the reactor itself.
* In general the best method to control nitrate is paying close attention to the quantity and types of foods used. In this case we believe maintaining a stable supply of food could also be helpful. Feeding the same amount at the same times of the day will help stabilize the food supply for both the bacteria and your tanks inhabitants. For instance if you feed every weekday, but are gone weekends this might produce instability in the food chain for the bacteria and resulting populations. A good automatic feeder could help with this.
* The speed at which the media tumbles will have an effect on the system because it is a combination of two things, contact time with the media and the amount of times a day the entire system water volume passes through the reactor. Every tank is going to have a sweet spot in terms of contact time with the media and how many times the entire water volume should pass through the reactor each day. In general we recommend trying to maximize the contact time with the media which means tuning the reactor so 100% of the media is just barley tumbling. Going slower runs the risk of the bio pellets sticking together with biofilm. Faster flow reduces contact time, but increases system turn over. Please feel free to experiment with this after the 8 weeks.
The absolute best advice we can give with this system is to set it up and forget about it for two months. Unless something is obviously not right resist all temptation to make any changes until the two months are up.
*One note: Some aquarists experience a bacterial bloom when first starting this system which clouds the tank for a few days. The cloudy water is largely more scary than it is harmful but it can reduce the oxygen levels in the tank. If you do experience the bacterial bloom we recommend aiming a few powerheads at the surface of the water to maximize gas exchange. Feeding the effluent of the bio pellet reactor directly into the protein skimmer or near the protein skimmer’s intake pump will also help with this.