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- - Biological Filtration (http://www.tropicalfishkeeping.com/freshwater-aquarium-equipment/biological-filtration-35069/)
I currently have a rena xp3 running on my 110 gal freshwater tank using chem stars for my biological needs. Should I change to ceramic, whats the difference. Also I'm using two carbon packs and three ammo packs, should I be doing somthing else?
I can't comment on the bio chem stars vs. ceramic debate as I've never used the stars before.
As for the other media...I personally don't see the point in using things like Ammo Chips. Sure, this stuff absorbs ammonia. The problem? It has a limited lifespan and must be replaced in order to keep working. If you don't replace it, its ammonia-absorbing abilities weaken and eventually go away. Why would you want something like this when you can just grow a nice healthy colony of bacteria to do this same job without the need to be replaced on a regular basis? I would gradually remove the Ammo Chips and replace it with more biological/mechanical filtration material. You'll be spending less money and you'll have a filter that doesn't rely on maintenance in order to retain an effective means of getting the ammonia out of your tank.
I also don't really see the need for carbon. It needs to be replaced very frequently to be useful for chemical filtration and the benefits are rarely described beyond "it removes harmful chemicals." You're treating new tank water with a good water conditioner anyway, so what harmful chemicals are you filtering out, exactly? Dissolved organics? Sure, but you're removing these manually via water changes in the first place. In a planted tank, activated carbon removes those expensive fertilizers you're putting into the tank, which is directly detrimental. The only real concrete purpose I see for carbon is when it comes time to remove medications from your tank water. I keep some on hand for this purpose but otherwise, all of my filter media is purely biological/mechanical.
The debate on carbon is far from one-sided though (I might be in the minority, even) and there are plenty of experienced fishkeepers who swear by it, but that's just my two cents.
thanks for the info, I'll gradually change over
If you do replace it (and I strongly encourage reading more about the subject before doing so) it's definitely best to do so gradually. Take out a third of the Ammo Chips and replace them with ceramic rings or other biological (or mechanical) filter media, wait two weeks and repeat until the Ammo Chips are gone. Despite not being designed to be a biological filter media, the Ammo Chips are going to have some bacteria buildup on them so removing them all at once could cause your tank to go through a mini-cycle.
On the subject of chem stars. Are you having problems? If not, why change? The chem stars have an active culture of bacteria which are breaking down ammonia and nitrite. If they are doing so effectively, I see no reason at all why you would consider a switch to ceramic. Bottom line, you are looking for a material that encourages bacterial growth. It looks like you have already accomplished this goal.
There is no real difference, except the shape. The stars actually seem to provide more surface area due to its shape. I would suggest sticking with the stars. The ceramic rings are virtually the same thing, a porous media that promotes bacteria growth.
Mark, what're your thoughts on things like Ammo Chips?
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