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Incorrect Information About The Bio-wheel


Guest Yer

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biowheel.jpg

The picture above is not "an exceptionally well colonized bio-wheel." It is a Bio-wheel that is long overdue for a good cleaning.

Nitrifying bacteria are microscopic; you cannot see them. The muck on that filter is a build-up of waste, uneaten food, etc.

Just thought that someone might want to change that post or make a note of it, so as not to misinform anyone new to the hobby who might come across that thread.

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Guest olive.oyl

I'd always wondered what the bacteria build on my rings would look like. there'd only be some very minimal brown on it, but never sludge like in the pic above. guess you cant really see em.

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  • Regular Member

Glitterfish is right. The sludge allows for a HUGE surface area for nitrifying bacteria to live. As long as it forms evenly and doesn't slough off when turning, it's perfectly fine and awesome. If you read the instructions on the biowheel, it specifically says: NEVER REPLACE. DISCOLOURATION IS EXPECTED.

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This sludge makes a great place for the good bacteria to thrive. ;)

If you go by that, it would make sense to never completely clean the "mechanical" media, either. Leaving that amount of sludge on any filtration media will do nothing but increase the amount of ammonia in the tank (which will increase the frequency of required water changes). In a stable tank, there will be enough dissolved nutrients in the water column to support the required amount of bacteria.

In this case, there is far too much waste on that Bio-wheel for the bacteria to handle. If it actually could support enough bacteria for that amount of waste, there would be no build-up (the Bio-wheel would appear to be perfectly "clean").

Submerging the Bio-wheel in tank water and scraping off all of that sludge would have no adverse effect on the bacteria. If anything, the bacteria on the filter fibers would be exposed to more highly oxygenated water, possibly aiding the oxidation process.

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If you go by that, it would make sense to never completely clean the "mechanical" media, either. Leaving that amount of sludge on any filtration media will do nothing but increase the amount of ammonia in the tank (which will increase the frequency of required water changes). In a stable tank, there will be enough dissolved nutrients in the water column to support the required amount of bacteria.

In this case, there is far too much waste on that Bio-wheel for the bacteria to handle. If it actually could support enough bacteria for that amount of waste, there would be no build-up (the Bio-wheel would appear to be perfectly "clean").

Submerging the Bio-wheel in tank water and scraping off all of that sludge would have no adverse effect on the bacteria. If anything, the bacteria on the filter fibers would be exposed to more highly oxygenated water, possibly aiding the oxidation process.

:blink: Well, actually you SHOULDN'T completely clean the mechanical media either. That's the whole point.

And you're taking about someone's filter who has stated they have ZERO ammonia reading, so there's nothing wrong with the sludge being there.

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And you're taking about someone's filter who has stated they have ZERO ammonia reading, so there's nothing wrong with the sludge being there.

A zero ammonia reading just means that there is enough bacteria (both on the filter media, and on any other surface in the tank) to handle dissolved ammonia in the water column. Depending on the amount of ammonia being produced for a given volume of water, it is entirely possible to have a "cycled" tank without even using a typical filter (this is pretty much how UGF's work). The problem with UGF's (and the same problem I am pointing out here, although on a smaller scale) is that the solid waste (that which is not dissolved in the water column) simply builds up over time, increasing the rate at which nitrates are produced. By removing the solid waste, you are removing an additional source of ammonia that would otherwise dissolve into the water.

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A zero ammonia reading just means that there is enough bacteria (both on the filter media, and on any other surface in the tank) to handle dissolved ammonia in the water column. Depending on the amount of ammonia being produced for a given volume of water, it is entirely possible to have a "cycled" tank without even using a typical filter (this is pretty much how UGF's work). The problem with UGF's (and the same problem I am pointing out here, although on a smaller scale) is that the solid waste (that which is not dissolved in the water column) simply builds up over time, increasing the rate at which nitrates are produced. By removing the solid waste, you are removing an additional source of ammonia that would otherwise dissolve into the water.

Then how do you explain a total cycle crash when other users have decided to remove this sludge?

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The answer to that would be on a case-by-case basis.

You'd have to consider so many different things: how exactly the sludge was removed, what other filters are being used, tank size, overall rate of ammonia production directly from the fish, gravel vs bare-bottom, other cleaning habits, feeding habits, etc.

And on the flip side, how would you explain a reduction in the rate at which nitrates were produced by users on other sites who have done exactly what I have suggested?

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The answer to that would be on a case-by-case basis.

You'd have to consider so many different things: how exactly the sludge was removed, what other filters are being used, tank size, overall rate of ammonia production directly from the fish, gravel vs bare-bottom, other cleaning habits, feeding habits, etc.

And on the flip side, how would you explain a reduction in the rate at which nitrates were produced by users on other sites who have done exactly what I have suggested?

"You'd have to consider so many different things: how exactly the sludge was removed, what other filters are being used, tank size, overall rate of ammonia production directly from the fish, gravel vs bare-bottom, other cleaning habits, feeding habits, etc."

There have been SO many examples of cycle crashing when media has been interrupted. If one user has found it beneficial to leave the sludge on, why is it so wrong?

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There have been SO many examples of cycle crashing when media has been interrupted.

Like I said before, there are too many other factors involved to cover every situation with one blanket statement. I am not denying that improperly "cleaning" the filter media could affect the bacteria, but there are other considerations.

This is actually one of the reasons why I am not a fan of the Bio-wheel (at least as the primary media for bacteria). Performing a "partial" cleaning is difficult. With other types of media (ceramic rings, bio-balls, sintered glass, etc) you can separate the material into a number of individual mesh bags. Then, if you alternate your maintenance on each bag, you can completely clean the media in one bag, place it back into the filter, and the remaining media will "re-seed" the clean media.

The Bio-wheel also adds an extra moving part unnecessarily. Assuming your tank is sufficiently aerated, there is more than enough dissolved oxygen in the water than required by the nitrifying bacteria. A Bio-wheel is no better (or worse) than any other method of "bio-filtration."

If one user has found it beneficial to leave the sludge on, why is it so wrong?

What I am saying is that leaving the sludge on is not beneficial. It is not helping the process of nitrification, nor is it hurting it. The only effect is increased nitrate production, which could be reduced by removing the solid waste.

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biowheel.jpg

The picture above is not "an exceptionally well colonized bio-wheel." It is a Bio-wheel that is long overdue for a good cleaning.

Nitrifying bacteria are microscopic; you cannot see them. The muck on that filter is a build-up of waste, uneaten food, etc.

Just thought that someone might want to change that post or make a note of it, so as not to misinform anyone new to the hobby who might come across that thread.

This sludge makes a great place for the good bacteria to thrive. ;)

If you go by that, it would make sense to never completely clean the "mechanical" media, either. Leaving that amount of sludge on any filtration media will do nothing but increase the amount of ammonia in the tank (which will increase the frequency of required water changes). In a stable tank, there will be enough dissolved nutrients in the water column to support the required amount of bacteria.

In this case, there is far too much waste on that Bio-wheel for the bacteria to handle. If it actually could support enough bacteria for that amount of waste, there would be no build-up (the Bio-wheel would appear to be perfectly "clean").

Submerging the Bio-wheel in tank water and scraping off all of that sludge would have no adverse effect on the bacteria. If anything, the bacteria on the filter fibers would be exposed to more highly oxygenated water, possibly aiding the oxidation process.

And you're taking about someone's filter who has stated they have ZERO ammonia reading, so there's nothing wrong with the sludge being there.

A zero ammonia reading just means that there is enough bacteria (both on the filter media, and on any other surface in the tank) to handle dissolved ammonia in the water column. Depending on the amount of ammonia being produced for a given volume of water, it is entirely possible to have a "cycled" tank without even using a typical filter (this is pretty much how UGF's work). The problem with UGF's (and the same problem I am pointing out here, although on a smaller scale) is that the solid waste (that which is not dissolved in the water column) simply builds up over time, increasing the rate at which nitrates are produced. By removing the solid waste, you are removing an additional source of ammonia that would otherwise dissolve into the water.

The answer to that would be on a case-by-case basis.

You'd have to consider so many different things: how exactly the sludge was removed, what other filters are being used, tank size, overall rate of ammonia production directly from the fish, gravel vs bare-bottom, other cleaning habits, feeding habits, etc.

And on the flip side, how would you explain a reduction in the rate at which nitrates were produced by users on other sites who have done exactly what I have suggested?

There have been SO many examples of cycle crashing when media has been interrupted.

Like I said before, there are too many other factors involved to cover every situation with one blanket statement. I am not denying that improperly "cleaning" the filter media could affect the bacteria, but there are other considerations.

This is actually one of the reasons why I am not a fan of the Bio-wheel (at least as the primary media for bacteria). Performing a "partial" cleaning is difficult. With other types of media (ceramic rings, bio-balls, sintered glass, etc) you can separate the material into a number of individual mesh bags. Then, if you alternate your maintenance on each bag, you can completely clean the media in one bag, place it back into the filter, and the remaining media will "re-seed" the clean media.

The Bio-wheel also adds an extra moving part unnecessarily. Assuming your tank is sufficiently aerated, there is more than enough dissolved oxygen in the water than required by the nitrifying bacteria. A Bio-wheel is no better (or worse) than any other method of "bio-filtration."

If one user has found it beneficial to leave the sludge on, why is it so wrong?

What I am saying is that leaving the sludge on is not beneficial. It is not helping the process of nitrification, nor is it hurting it. The only effect is increased nitrate production, which could be reduced by removing the solid waste.

The only effect is increased nitrate production, which could be reduced by removing the solid waste.

:spam::blowup::saywhat:badidea:stop

Oh, and :welcome

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  • Regular Member

Ok, guys.... calm down.

Yer has a point. We regularly clean our filter cartridges by plunging them in used fish water and swishing off the mulm that collects on them, right? The average biowheel never needs this to be done. It does not collect mulm to the degree that the one in the picture displays. So, in general, there is never any need to clean or swish a biowheel in used fish water.

The picture does, however, show an exceptionally covered biowheel - and, personally I would probably swish that one in fish water to remove layer of the mulm from it. That waste/slime/mulm is not necessary for the beneficial bacteria and most likely the bacteria is actually colonating the layers of waste, not the paper of the wheel.

And, yes, if you were to swish such a biowheel, you would have a problem for a bit - if it were the only platform for the beneficial bacteria. The beneficial bacteria could easily have populated in the mulm and not attached to the paper of the wheel much at all (the oxygen cannot reach through the mulm to the paper) - and you would be swishing away a large number of them.

This is a prime example why a biowheel should not be your only platform for your cycle.

So - yes, I agree that that is "poor" suggestion for a "well populated" biowheel. But it is not worth argueing over. The idea was to demonstrate that a "dirty" looking biowheel was a colonated wheel. Washing the paper of a wheel to squeaky cleanliness is counter productive. That was the whole gist of the original post.

Since the intent of the original post was just that, and the picture is not THAT misleading, I think it will stay. In general, "nubes" will not err in not rinising enough - they err in cleaning too much. As they learn and read, they will understand more and more as to the degrees of cleanliness that are effective in a nitrogen cycled tank.

Thank you for your sharp eye, Yer. Welcome to Koko's. :)

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I'm curious to know how many biowheel users have experienced a build-up of sludge/biofilm/whatever, similar to that shown in the photo? Mine is two years old and is merely discolored. Of course, I have lots of other places in my tank/filters for nitrifiers to grow.

My operating principle is (with three filters), I only clean one at a time. If my biowheel looked like that, I would clean it. I don't think that it would affect my cycle. If it was my only filter..... .... I would proceed very cautiously.

But with that much sludge accumulated, I bet that it is periodically sloughing off pieces of sludge into the tank. None of us would want that. I agree that there is no simple answer.

Dennis

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That waste/slime/mulm is not necessary for the beneficial bacteria and most likely the bacteria is actually colonating the layers of waste, not the paper of the wheel.

Though somewhat misconstrued on a few small points, this page explains a bit of the science involved:

Importance of Mechanical Filtration before Biofiltration

Some of the other "articles" there are good introductory reads.

Contrary to what most aquaria hobbyist seem to think, there are many more than two types of bacteria present in aquarium filtration. The "heterotrophic bacteria" in the above link feed on solid waste suspended in the water column (the muck that builds up on the filter). Nitrifying bacteria feed on dissolved waste in the water column (you are not able to see this waste). These groups of bacteria, among several others, compete with each other for resources. Therefore, the build-up of solid waste promotes growth of other types of unwanted bacteria. It also decreases available surface area for nitrifying bacteria, and inhibits the dispersion of dissolved nutrients.

One aspect of fluidized bed filters that makes them popular in the aquaculture industry is the constant grinding-up of the solid waste that makes it past the mechanical pre-filters. Solid matter is broken down (or held suspended) providing a "clean" environment for nitrifying bacteria.

The idea was to demonstrate that a "dirty" looking biowheel was a colonated wheel.

To be clear, my original point was that this is false. A BIO-Wheel can be completely filthy and harbor very little nitrifying bacteria.

Typically, the nitrifying bacteria form a thin biofilm (micrometer scale) on the media's surface, feeding on dissolved nutrients (ammonia/nitrite) in the presence of dissolved oxygen. Ideally, you'd want to remove some of the bacteria as it matured to make room for younger bacteria (which feeds more rapidly on dissolved waste). This is another reason why fluidized beds work so well; the grains constantly scrape against one another, removing small amounts of bacteria, and making room for new growth. However, if nothing is present to constantly scrub the media, the biofilm will gradually increase in thickness as bacteria, suspended solid waste, and other organisms (such as protozoa) build-up. This unwanted build-up (primarily from the solid waste) is the discoloration you see on the media.

P.S. - I am not just regurgitating things I've found on the internet. This information comes from scientific research (case studies, lab experiments, industry tests, etc) that I have studied for college projects (and personal interest). In other words, you won't find this stuff on Google.

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What you have stated, is, in fact, very true. It is, however, undully complicated for many. Many will truly appreciate this information, but, since many others may not easily grasp such concepts - this is often beyond the common experience of most people and they have no background in such science - that it is far easier to simplify matters. (K I S S) The average fish keeper does not need to know the more advanced science.

For that reason - simplification - it is not usually worth going into the concepts of multiple competing bacterial populations. The common person does not need to know the partitions of 4 - only that 2+2 = 4. It works and that is all that matters.

:)

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  • Admin

simple is better.

I my self will clean off my bio wheel but on the off time of not cleaning the filter sponge. keeps things balanced....got to think of balancing things, thats the main point u dont want a tank crash....

im out

welcome to the forum :D

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