There are many types of bio media on the market, and it can get confusing and overwhelming to figure out what the best bio media is for aquarium filtration. Below we will walk you through the process of how we selected the bio media that we not only sell at CustomAquariums.com, but use in our sister company Serenity Aquarium and Aviary Services which services hundreds of aquarium accounts.
Desirable Attribute of Seamless Sump® Bio Media
- High Surface area
- Does not collect and trap detritus and other organic matter that can fester
- Will not break down
- Allows plenty of flow rate for an efficient reaction
- Cost effective
- Does not alter your water chemistry
- Easy to clean and recharge
Our Seamless Sump® Bio Media
We use a medium sized, round, white, smooth, ceramic (glass) bio ball for our bio media. When weighing all of the pros and cons of the different types of media, it was clear to us that this is the best choice.
Bio Media Shape
If you get a bio material with a complicated (and sometimes gimmicky) shape, it lends itself to trapping detritus and other organic matter which can fester and poison your water. The round shape of our Seamless Sump® bio media is the best way to create the least number of voids for material to get trapped. Remember, the pre-filter sock is where you want your particles to be trapped, not in your bio media stack. If the particles get to the bio media stack you would much rather have it continue through the system so it has another shot at getting trapped in your pre-filter sock the next time around. The bio stack is only intended to have an efficient “good” bacteria culture to react with and purify your water, not to trap particles. The round shape bio media we find lends itself best to having efficient interaction with your water and at the same time not trap organic matter.
Bio Media Texture
Preventing organic matter from being trapped in your bio stack is also the reason we go with a smooth bio media. Of course, Seamless Sump® bio media does have more surface area- there is no question about that. However our opinion is if the course bio media is trapping undesirable material that is poisoning your water as it festers, it negates the advantage of the increased surface area. Keeping your Seamless Sump® bio media stack clean of detritus should be a paramount objective.
Bio Media Material
Some other manufacturers use materials such as clay for their bio media material. They do this partially because it is less expensive and partially so it intentionally deteriorates and you have to buy more often. We don’t really find the cost difference to be worth the sacrifice in quality as compared to ceramic (which will never break down) and our philosophy is to do right by our customers and never intentionally design products to require expendables. So, the overall long-term cost of ceramic bio balls (because they last longer) is actually a lot better than other materials that decay. The clay also tends to be pitted and course, which again may add some surface area but also creates a debris trap.
Bio Media Chemistry
You also have to take into consideration what the material does to the chemistry of the water. Our ceramic bio balls are basically the same thing as glass, and are completely inert. It will not change the chemistry of your water whatsoever. Your aquarium is made of glass after all, isn’t it? Other materials cannot always say the same thing. Some clay, quartzite, and other materials will actually change the mineral content and PH of your water. We view this as a major problem where ceramic is the clear preferred choice.
Bio Media Size
As a rule, the smaller the bio ball the more surface area you will get. If you fill a cup with 10mm bio balls and another one with 15mm bio balls, the cup with 10mm bio balls will have much greater overall surface area for “good bacteria” to grow than the 15mm bio balls that occupy the same overall volume of space. However, once you go so small, now the bio balls are so dense that it inhibits water flow. You want the water to efficiently flow through the stack and accommodate your desired flow rate of the tank without slowing the water down too much. Through many forms of testing we feel we found just the right size that maximizes surface area yet lets the water smoothly and efficiently flow through the stack.
Bio Media Color
One advantage to our white Seamless Sump® bio media is when you service your aquarium you can get a gauge as to how much life is left in the material. When you put new Seamless Sump® bio media in it will be white, and as it processes more and more water you will see it slowly yellow. You will also be able to easily determine which stack of bio media is the oldest and which is the newest when you go to replace or recharge part of your media stack.
Bio Media Cost and Reusability
You can recharge the Seamless Sump® bio media by simply boiling it in water, however in our service business we discard one basket of bio media every 6 weeks and fill with new. By the time we spend the time boiling and replacing it in the stack, it really doesn’t cost that much more to replace it all together in the first place and it is a safer bet that you have a good clean healthy Seamless Sump® bio media bacteria culture at all times. After a long period of time, even if you re-charge the bio media, at the microscopic level it does become less efficient as dead bacteria cells may not necessarily come loose from the bio ball and eventually there is less surface area being used. Some estimates are you lose about 10% efficiency with every recharge, but unless you are a biologist with a microscope, it is really hard to tell what that loss of efficiency is exactly. Since the material is so inexpensive, we just discard one basket every six weeks. It amounts to about a bucket to a bucket and a half a year of Seamless Sump® bio media for an average tank. When you look at the investment you have into your complete aquarium setup as well as the health and well-being of your established tank, it is usually worth it for the peace of mind of always having a fresh bio media bacteria culture. However, if budget is more of a concern, it is an easy option to re-charge the bio media up to a few times before discarding.
Because we are a factory direct company, we have the ability to buy our Seamless Sump® bio media in bulk by the ton, and we sell in larger 5L quantities (roughly the correct amount for a typical Seamless Sump® System). There is not a lot of packaging and not a lot of markup (ie- distributor, wholesaler, retailer, etc.). This is why we are able to provide a superior quality bio media for LESS than just about every other solution on the market today. Just because its more expensive, it doesn’t make it better. Our bio media is a perfect example of how you can get a premium bio material for less money.
Proof is in the Results
We have vast experience servicing hundreds of accounts all over the country. This system of small ceramic bio balls in conjunction with a convenient, easy to clean, easy to replace, organized culture in a properly designed media stack (see our Seamless Sump® system) has proven to have the best results by far of any system we have ever tried. There is also validation when you look at the various water treatment centers around the world. By far the most common material used in treating municipal water for human consumption is ceramic Seamless Sump® bio media much like what we use. The fact that the smartest scientists all over the world that are in the business of treating water basically came to the same conclusions we did after evaluating all the different possible materials makes us think we are probably on the right track.