04-18-2008, 11:06 PM
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Biowheels are designed to break down ammonia/nitrite into nitrate. Nitrate is harmful to corals, fish, and invertebrates. There is no reason to intentionally filter a marine aquarium in the same manor as a freshwater system.
In a tank with live rock especially, the need for biowheels/bioballs, or any other artificial biological filtration is limited. If you do choose to use biological filtration, all water should first be introduced to a protein skimmer, with the output entering a biological filter. This give the protein skimmer the opportunity to directly remove the organic waste prior to it being broken down into Nitrate by the biological filter.
As an example, you may have a hang on skimmer unit such as the CPR Backpak. THese units are designed so that all water enters the skimmer first, and then the biofilter. Using a biowheel directly, such as the Penguin or Emperor units, inputs Nitrates directly into the system without the protein skimmer first having the opportunity to directly remove the waste. There is simply no need for this type of filtration. There are easy ways to first expose the water to the foam fractionator/protein skimmer, and then into the biomedia. And with the advancement of sand and live rock as a form of biofilter, i can't imagine why any aquarium with live rock would also choose to use any other form of biological filtration.
Overall, live sand, live rock, and a good protein skimmer are the keys to long term success in a marine system.