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Bio balls in filter set up?


Tropical_Newbie
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I have a new tank, had it set up and running for a week now, I didn't think anything of it when I set it up but the filter that comes with the tank set up has bio balls in it.

I put a fish in to start the ammonia / nitrate cycle and so far it's been nearly a week and no ammonia has been present at all.

I just found out the bio balls stop ammonia getting into the water??? Is this true? What should I do here? I'm totally confused now.

The fish is fine and healthy, should I just keep stocking the tank and leave it at that? I'm lost! :cheer:

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I don't see how bioballs would stop ammonia from getting into the water, only zeolite can do that I beleive. Zeolite absorbs ammonia but bio balls just allow more colonies of bacteria to grow in the filter therefore helping to stabilise the levels of nitrates, nitrites and ammonia not remove it. Correct me if I'm wrong someone!!!

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To carry on from what Cassy has said; the Bio-balls will simply provide sufficient surface area to house the bacteria that will

control your Ammonia. So, in essence, yes the Bio-balls will control the Ammonia, although indirectly...

As to why you are not seeing any test results yet...no idea. How long has your setup been running with fish in it? I think it can

take a few days for Ammonia to become measurable, even if it is present. Also, you'd have to consider size of tank in relation

to the size of your fish. Obviously a Neon Tetra in an 8ft tank would have it's work cut out generating measurable levels of

Ammonia, whilst on the other hand, an adult Oscar in 10L of water would generate Ammonia off the scale in a matter of days

(these are only random examples, of course, but you get the picture...)

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When you say bio-balls, you mean the blue or black plastic spiked/holed things? If so, you are fine, its just plastic.

What did you use to dechlorinate the tank?

Did you add any bio-booster products?

How large is the tank?

What species and how large is the fish?

Is everything in the tank new?

What test kit are you using?

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When you say bio-balls, you mean the blue or black plastic spiked/holed things? If so, you are fine, its just plastic.

There are 3 chambers inside the filter, one has these plastic balls, one has these chalk like white circular balls in the shape of donuts, about 6. and then in the middle compartment there is a bag of charcoal surrounded by sponge stuff. The instructions said to rinse all those things under water put them back in their places close the filter connect it up turn it on.

What did you use to dechlorinate the tank?

I put in the generic Stress Coat tap water conditioner by API.

593.jpg

How large is the tank?

22L

What species and how large is the fish?

I have a small Rosy barb about 3 cms long and a small Mollie also about 3 cms long.

The barb has been in for a week. The mollie 2 days.

Is everything in the tank new?

Yes. It's been set up and running for a week.

What test kit are you using?

The API ammonia pack. And the Nitrates pack (which I haven't used yet because there's been no ammonia yet) Same brand as the stress coat.

API%20Ammonia.png

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the white donut things sound like something similar to zeolite to me which will be removing the ammonia from the water. After a week the tank isn't anywhere near cycled enough, a properly cycled tank takes more like 6 weeks. If you can get hold of 10L of water from someone else's established tank this will help a lot. When I worked at the pet shop we'd give people a bag full of water when they bought a new tank to help the cycle along. Consider getting some more cheap tetras, like 10 or so. It's definitely too many fish to have in a 22L tank but they will definitely increase the ammonia level. Once the tank is cycled you can just exchange them at the LFS for something you want (if any survive).

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In a nut shell... yes. The zeolite won't stop removing it but what you need to do is to overstock it while the good bacteria colonies are getting established so when they have and the tank is mature or 'cycled' the zeolite will only maintain the ammonia levels, hopefully preventing a spike which can kill the fish. If you want to speed things along and just keep an eye on it yourself you can always remove the zeolite until it has cycled or until you see a massive spike in ammonia. But you will need to make sure you keep an eye on it...although fish dropping like flies is usually a good indication that there is something wrong.

Good luck.

PS do I sound like I know what I'm talking about? Pretty good for someone who's ever done any of this myself huh? You learn a lot working in an LFS. I'm shocking...i've never waited for a tank to cycle properly and I don't bother now that I have 3 established tanks. I just do a good gravel vac, sucking up the mulm from under the gravel in an established tank and use a that water and mulm to start a new tank. Not to mention transplanting filter media from one filter to the uncycled tank.

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the white donut things sound like something similar to zeolite to me

...actually, sounds to me like ceramic noodles. T_N, can you post pics of these "doughnut" balls?

I think maybe (and sorry to contradict again, Cass) just stick with the two fish you have. The ammonia will kick in. It can't

not. If you add more fish, you will kick the cycle along sooner, but I reckon you'll end up in a frantic rush to control the sudden

explosion of ammonia. From what I can gather, you've not been at this game very long, and I worry that it might all get a bit too

much if you aren't careful. Sorry, I don't mean to patronise, but it'd be sad for you to go thru the same amount of fish that I have in

the short few years I've been into this hobby...LOTS!!!

Also (sorry again, Cass), I don't believe in any form of ammonia controlling agent, other than regular water changes. Some people

swear by the Zeolite, AmmoLock or AmmoRight. I have two bottles of AmmoLock in my "fish box", left over from my ignorant days,

before I learnt that all these products do is starve your bacteria of the ammonia they need to grow...thus slowing, or even ruining,

your efforts to cycle...

Just my 2c.

What Cass says about using established water/mulm (gunk)/gravel to cycle is spot on, though. I set up a friends tank a few weeks ago

(20L with one Male HM), using water and gunk from my 70L. Hasn't even made a blip on the ammonia scale, although I know the little

Betta will be producing it readily enough. The aged water has just kicked the system straight in, no woriies. I even ran the small bubble

filter in my tank for a few days beforehand to make certain nothing would go wrong... Quite proud of that set up, actually!!

Are you confused yet??? ;)

Edited by Ghengis
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Agree re: the white stuff being ceramic noodles. Most times if you have that many different things, more than one is some sort of high density housing for bacterial colonies. Is it a cannister filter of some sort? Does it have a model number on it so we can check for sure?

Zeolite is a natural substance, but there is a man-made resin variety that looks like little white rocks. Often it is mixed through with carbon so you have a carbon insert with occasional white bits in it. You can buy it by itself, it is sold as Ammo-chips or something like that. Almost every major brand has a variety. It does eventually stop removing ammonia. It is a chemical reaction that can be reversed with saltwater, so the zeolite fills up, and you dump the bag in saltwater for a while, the water turns black and then you rinse and put it back in the tank ;) Not 100% sure that works with the natural variety, I've never tried recharging it.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeolite

If it is zeolite, you don't want it in there while you are cycling. If it is ceramic noodles, then you do (same as bio-balls, but more surface area).

As for fish, I'd also stick with what you have. The other option would work but you don't really want to introduce more fish than you need. This is partly because of disease concerns and partly because the ammonia will jump through the roof and knock off the weak ones which then die and let off more ammonia (unless they are considerate enough to do it while you are at home and watching, but they rarely are) and then because the level shoots up quickly it takes the bacteria longer to get on top of it. With just the two fish, you should start to get a reading within about 2 weeks and it should stay below deadly levels. It might not be great for them, but they should survive it.

Cycling with fish always takes longer than doing it without because you have to keep that ammonia and nitrite level under the deadly mark. You want the spikes to be as low as possible but you don't want to have to change water if you can help it, because every water change slows you down and just prolongs the process. That being said, change the water if you need to in order to keep the fish happy. Try not to touch the tank sides or gravel though, and don't change the filter. Bacteria love surfaces and while a water change shouldn't do much damage to where you are at, gravel vacs and filter cleaning tend to give you some noticeable spikes.

Cass is right in that most people who've been doing this a while don't cycle tanks anymore, at least not in the constant measuring way. You get a bit of an eye for the best gravel to use or the most effective filtration medium and how long X is going to take with Y many fish etc etc. Plus we cheat and use stuff from other tanks and chock them full of live plants and so on :) The reason we can do this, however, is that we all fussed and fiddled with our first setups, so we got to know the signs of distressed fish, where the spikes were likely to occur, what set them off etc etc, and if we have a problem the very first thing we do is hit those test kits. Sometimes, depending on the fish we are planning on housing, we still go through the whole cycling deal with manually adding the ammonia and testing testing testing just to be sure ;) The point I'm making is that everyone has absolutely got to know how this works, and practice is better than theory ;)

Also, can you check that your 2nd test kit is NITRITE (with an i) rather than NITRATE (with an a), because nitrite is the one that you'll need after the ammonia, and usually the place where your cycle will lag if it is going to be difficult. It is the most toxic of the three so if you don't have that one I'd really recommend that you pick one up, as that can start to rise at the same time as the ammonia.

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The other problem could be your test kit itself. I have had faulty ones before and found out the hard way. Get another test kit and try with that, or take a sample of the water to the lfs for testing. If it's a reputable one, they will be happy to test it for you.

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Did I mention I don't own a test kit for Nitrites, Nitrate or ammonia ;) And i've not lost a fish from anything other than injury in my community tanks for at least 7 months :). Am proud of that.

Also don't worry about contradicting me lol. Not everyone has all the answers and the way I do things may be completely different to the way others do it. It's a matter of reading all you can and stocking your brain with so much info it's about to burst then using bits and piece and different combinations to find out what works for you - a bit like parenting actually lmao. Now that everyone has said it I've realised that what you have does sound like ceramic noodles, don't know why I thought it was zeolite, specially seeing as I've only ever seen zeolite in chip/gravel size form. I think it was the 'white' part of that and i thought 'zeolite is white' lol.

Unfortunately there is no way to force a tank to cycle in a week or so (not that I know of) and the sooner you add stock fish, as in the ones you want to keep, the more likely you are to experience losses so the only thing you can do is be patient. Don't test the water daily, you'll drive yourself mad..this is one of the reasons I don't own test kits. I used to test my tanks ph every single day, 3 times a day and it got obsessive. Just test it once a week, unless of course you find a dead fish then it'd be a good idea to test.

Once again

Good luck

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