Bio Balls & Ceramic Rings: 15 Things You Should Know

Bio balls are responsible for housing beneficial bacteria and aiding in the removal of ammonia and nitrates. Bio balls also contribute to aeration in your tank to help provide oxygen to your tank inhabitants.

However, are bio balls the right biological filter for you? Would ceramic rings perhaps be a better option? Let your questions be answered by reading this article!

Bio Balls

What Do Bio Balls Do In An Aquarium?

Bio balls provide a living space for beneficial bacteria and it provides aeration to the tank as well.

Ever wonder how these tiny balls grow beneficial bacteria in them? Well, if you take a closer inspection on the bio ball’s design you’ll see a lot of grooves in them, these serve as a surface area for the beneficial bacteria.

Moreover, the beneficial bacteria housed in the bio ball is part of a cycle called the nitrogen cycle. A nitrogen cycle refers to the process of waste being generated from fishes and plants and that leads to the formation of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates. If you want to know more about this cycle, click this link.

To increase the efficiency of bio balls, you can add a sponge filter inside of them. This would increase the number of beneficial bacteria you have stored in your bio balls. Ultimately, this would be a beneficial thing for your tank because these bacteria will either eliminate toxins inside the tank or make them less harmful.

Can You Have Too Many Bio Balls?

No, you can’t have too many bio balls. In the first place, you can never overdose on beneficial bacteria nor are they harmful once you have a lot of them inside a tank.

Despite not having a negative effect when it comes to having a lot of bio balls, there’s still a rule of thumb to how much you can put in a tank (per gallon). According to aquarists, 2.2 bio balls would equate to 100 gallons.

Of course, the number of bio balls you can fit inside your tank would depend on the size you’ve bought. Also, try to look at your bio ball’s packaging and check for the manufacturer’s instructions regarding the recommended number of bio balls per gallon of water.

How Long Does It Take For Bacteria To Grow On Bio Balls?

For tanks that have no beneficial bacteria colonies yet, it would take three to six weeks for bacteria to grow on bio balls.

It would make sense that an aquarium that already has a biological filter pre-installed would have a shorter amount of time in growing beneficial bacteria since there would already be pre-existing colonies in the biological media.

To be specific, these types of aquarium setups would grow beneficial bacteria on bio balls in a span of one to two weeks. This timeframe also can stretch a bit but not too much to the point that it would take three to six weeks.

On the other hand, if you’re just having a new aquarium being set up, then expect a longer waiting time for beneficial bacteria to grow in those bio balls you’ve bought. It would take three to six weeks for beneficial bacteria to grow in this type of aquarium.

Now, you may be wondering why it takes so long for beneficial bacteria to grow with a new aquarium set up, well, there are several factors to why this happens. Refer to the bulleted list below to see why beneficial bacteria would take time to grow on bio balls and other biological filtrations/media:

  • Your aquarium’s temperature is too high or too low. Beneficial bacteria thrive in warm temperatures, specifically temperatures that are set at 85 to 90 degrees. If you want beneficial bacteria to generate in the bio balls faster, make your tank’s temperature warmer.
  • Beneficial bacteria may take longer to grow due to an insufficient amount of oxygen in the tank. You can oxygenate water by adding an air pump to your tank. You might want to leave your air pump on for the whole night to increase the oxygen levels in the tank.

Also, another way of increasing oxygen inside the tank would be adding water flow. A neat contraption for adding water flow to a tank would be a wavemaker. This way, the beneficial bacteria in your tank would survive and grow in number.

  • Beneficial bacteria don’t do so well in direct sunlight, so do keep them away from it. Also, turn off the LED of your aquarium so that the bacteria will grow a lot faster.
  • The growth of beneficial bacteria would be slow if you don’t have a filter in your tank, then again that would be impossible since filters are essential. Always have a biological filter in your tank so that the beneficial bacteria would have a place where they can grow and create colonies in.
  • When cleaning your filters, avoid using tap water and rubbing it vigorously. If you do this, you will wash out the bacteria colonies that have already formed in the filter and it would take a long time to grow new colonies again.

What you should do instead is clean your filter using aquarium water.

  • Too much fish inside the aquarium equates to more waste being produced. The more waste there is the slower it is for beneficial bacteria to form since it would have a hard time converting all the ammonia to nitrite, and eventually, nitrate. Try to limit the number of fish you have inside your tank to avoid this scenario.

Can I Reuse Old Bio Balls?

Yes, you can reuse old bio balls. This would be good for your tank since it would already have pre-existing colonies of beneficial bacteria.

Pre-existing colonies of bacteria in used bio balls means you won’t have to wait a long time for bacteria to form in your newly bought bio balls.

However, you must be careful if you plan on reusing old bio balls because this would have detritus in them. Make sure to remove the detritus trapped in your old bio balls.

If you don’t know what detritus is, according to Reefbum, it’s the dead organic matter from dead organisms or the waste of tank inhabitants.

Are Bio Balls Good For Turtle Tanks?

Yes, bio balls are good and safe for turtle tanks so long as they are kept inside filters.

Like fishes, turtles also need biological filtration to keep their tanks clean. Turtles produce a lot more waste than fish so you need to have biological filtration in your turtle tank.

With that being said, if there’s one thing you need to know about turtles, they love to nibble on things. This is why people are reluctant to get sponge filters for their turtle tanks because turtles tend to munch on them.

So whether you’re using a sponge filter or bio balls, make sure you make them turtle-proof. If you don’t want to go through the trouble of installing them manually, you can buy a filter that comes with filter media like a sponge filter or bio balls. An example of such a filter would be the Sun Sun filters.

What Can I Use Instead Of Bio Balls?

You can use ceramic rings instead of bio balls. Ceramic media is a great alternative for bio balls and some aquarists argue that it’s a lot more beneficial for a tank compared to bio balls.

You can also use porous rocks or sand beds as an alternative to bio balls.

The reason why some aquarists believe that ceramic rings are better than bio balls is that the former has a lot more surface area to offer. Why so? Well, beneficial bacteria can grow both on the outer and inner surfaces of a ceramic ring.

With that being said, there would be a lot more space for beneficial bacteria to grow in.

Do Bio Balls Cause Nitrates?

No, bio balls don’t cause nitrates. Bio balls serve as a home to beneficial bacteria and these bacteria are in charge of converting ammonia to nitrite and nitrite to nitrates.

The beneficial bacteria in the bio balls are a part of a nitrogen cycle and that’s where the nitrates would come from. So no, bio balls don’t necessarily cause nitrates directly. Then again, you don’t have to worry about excessive nitrates in your tank if you do regular water changes.

Which Is Better, Bio Balls Or Ceramic Rings?

Both bio balls and ceramic rings are good filter media and neither is better than the other.

When several aquarists claim that ceramic rings are better than bio balls because they offer more surface area, it’s true to some extent. In actuality, bio balls also offer a lot of surface area because you can put sponge media inside of them.

Both products do share some similarities, however, they do have key differences. Refer to the bullet list below to see their differences with each other:

Bio Balls

  • Pros
    • A lot of surface area (this can be increased by installing a sponge inside of the bio balls).
    • Easy to install.
    • Bio balls are durable, you don’t need to replace them right away.
  • Cons
    • They can only grow nitrifying bacteria.

Ceramic Rings

  • Pros
    • Ceramic rings provide a lot of surface area for beneficial bacteria (namely, the outer and inner surfaces).
    • Easy to install.
    • Easy to maintain.
    • Durable
    • Water circulation is better with ceramic rings.
    • Two types of bacteria can grow on ceramic rings (autotrophic bacteria and heterotrophic bacteria).
  • Cons
    • The center hole of a ceramic ring tends to become clogged with detritus.

Observe the pros and cons for both of these biological media and determine which one you would prefer.

Bio Balls

Are you leaning towards getting bio balls? Well, you may refer to our list below and see which one you would like to purchase. Do take note that each of these products is highly rated in the market and is highly recommended by aquarists.

Check them out:

Out of all the bio balls listed, we would recommend getting the Marineland Bio-filter balls as these come from a reputable brand and a lot of aquarists have this as their first choice when buying bio balls. Moreover, these bio balls can fit Marineland’s C-Series canister filters as well.

They also come in 90pcs per box, so you won’t have to worry about coming short in terms of having sufficient bio balls in your tank to sustain it.

Ceramic Rings

What Is The Purpose Of Ceramic Rings In An Aquarium?

Ceramic rings serve as a home to beneficial bacteria. Beneficial bacteria then form colonies on the ceramic rings and perform a nitrogen cycle. This ensures that your aquarium stays clean and tank inhabitants are happy and healthy.

Ceramic rings have a lot of surface area in them because if you look closely at their outer surface, you’ll see that there’s a significant amount of pores in there. Also, not only will the bacteria grow in said pores but they will also grow through the hole of a ceramic ring.

This makes ceramic rings a perfect addition to your tank and it’s considered to be one of the best biological media in the market.

Are Ceramic Rings Good For Aquariums?

Yes, ceramic rings are good for your aquarium because they provide biological filtration to your tank, in turn, this would help in clearing out your aquarium water and ridding it of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrates.

You also need to know that ceramic rings must follow the correct order of being installed with other types of filtration. To put it simply, you must always follow this order; mechanical filter – biological filter – chemical filter.

So why can’t these layers of filtration be interchanged? Well, they can’t be interchanged because detritus would get trapped in the biological filter (if this layer is placed before the mechanical filter). If detritus takes up the surface area of your ceramic ring then there won’t be any space left for the beneficial bacteria.

With that being said, ensure that you put your ceramic rings right after the mechanical filtration.

If you’re wondering if ceramic rings can be put inside an aquarium, the short answer would be yes.

Can You Reuse Ceramic Rings In An Aquarium?

Yes, you can reuse ceramic rings. Ensure that they’re cleaned with aquarium water so that the detritus that’s trapped in them would be removed.

It’s safe to reuse ceramic rings. It’s better to reuse these than toss in a new ceramic ring in your filter. Why? Well, there would already be colonies of beneficial bacteria on the ceramic rings, this way, you wouldn’t have to cycle your tank and wait for bacteria to grow on your biological media.

However, if your ceramic rings can’t seem to be cleaned despite soaking and running them through tank water, then that would be a clear sign of replacing them.

How Many Ceramic Rings Per Gallon?

There’s no specific number of ceramic rings that you should use per gallon. The next best thing to do is to balance out the number of ceramic rings to the size of your tank.

Since ceramic rings are placed inside filters and filters are based on the size that’s appropriate to your tank, then all you need to do is fill up your filter with ceramic rings.

This way, you wouldn’t have to worry about how many ceramic rings you should put in your tank (assuming that your filter is compatible with the size of your tank).

Do I Need To Wash Ceramic Rings?

Yes, you need to wash ceramic rings to remove the detritus trapped in them so that water can flow through the ceramic rings with ease. Thus, more bacteria can grow on the ceramic rings thanks to the water flow.

Ensure that you’re cleaning your ceramic rings the correct way because once you use soap, tap water (which has chlorine), and then scrub them as well, that would strip away the beneficial bacteria on your biological media.

The right way of washing your ceramic rings is using aquarium water and gently moving them around. The easiest way of doing this would be using a bucket filled with aquarium water.

What Can I Use Instead Of Ceramic Rings?

Lava rocks, bio balls, Fluval BioMax, and Seachem Matrix are great alternatives to ceramic rings.

If there aren’t any ceramic rings available in your area or you simply don’t want to use ceramic rings, then the next best thing would be the products we’ve mentioned above.

These are great alternatives and do a pretty good job in maintaining a clean tank and grow lots of beneficial bacteria colonies.

Ceramic Rings

Have you finally settled for ceramic rings? Then look no further! We provided a list of the best ceramic rings for your aquarium.

The products listed above are highly rated and have been tested by several aquarists. You can also see the brand Fluval and Marineland, both of which are superior brands in the industry of providing aquarium needs.


Related Article:

Bio Media: 9 Helpful Answers You Should Know (For Beginners)