The 9 Best Bio Filter Media

By Nadine Oraby | 2020 Update

Biofilter media is a popular option for filtering freshwater and saltwater aquariums, but choosing which product is right for your tank is a complicated task. To make things easier, we’ve compiled a list of the best biofilter media and answered a number of bio-media FAQ.

Our Top 9 Picks — The Best Bio Filter Media

1. Aquatic Experts Bio Balls Filter Media

Aquatic Experts Bio Balls have a spherical structure consisting of dozens of little spines designed to increase the surface area of each filter by 2 square feet. The kit comes with around 300 1 1/2-inch high-density polypropylene (thermoplastic) balls. They are packaged in a black mesh zippered bag. They are suitable for both fresh and saltwater tanks and ponds. What’s more, they come with a 90-day 100-percent money-back guarantee. | PROS: The mesh bag (with a fish-safe plastic zipper) makes for easy storage | They provide optimized square footage for healthy bacteria colonization. | Removes nitrite, nitrate, and ammonia. | CONS: May need more than one back for larger ponds

2. Marinepure High Performance Ceramic Biofilter Media

Marinepure High-Performance Ceramic Biofilter Media feature 2 quarts of 1.5-inch ceramic spheres. The natural material offers a highly porous flow-through design that is essential for healthy bacteria propagation. The filters optimize ammonia and nitrate removal while reducing nitrate levels in both freshwater and saltwater aquariums. They can be used in wet/dry filters, sumps, or canister filters. PROS: Lots of surface area for beneficial bacteria growth | Also available in 1-inch plates and 4-inch blocks | Accelerates cycle to achieve ideal water parameters faster CONS: The ceramic material naturally breaks down over time | Has the potential to break during the shipping process.

3. Fluval’s Biomax Filter Media

Fluval’s Biomax Filter Media consists of porous ceramic rings that are designed to optimize surface area and support growing bacteria populations. While Fluval recommends these filters be replaced every six months, they tend to last considerably longer. The micropores have a mild tendency to clog, but can easily be clean and replaced. What’s more, the rings feature a hole that maximizes water flow-through. PROS: An inexpensive alternative to plastic media | Rapidly rids water of ammonia and nitrite | Suitable for all aquariam types. CONS: Fluval recommends they be replaced every six months.

4. Fine commodities 250g Sphere Biofilter Media

Fine Commodities spherical yellow bio balls are designed with ornamental fish in mind. They feature a highly porous surface with a diameter of around 22 millimeters. Each bag contains 250 grams. Their perks include washing away ammonia contamination and balancing the PH of your tank. They fit nicely inside of a trickle filter and do not clog easily. In the case that they do accumulate debris, we recommend replacing them. PROS: Up to a 98 percent stronger absorption | Feature a fish-safe zippered mesh bag | Extremely porous surface | Inexpensive alternative to major brands CONS: May become clogged and require replacement

5. CerMedia MarinePure MP2C Bio-Filter Media

CerMedia MarinePure’s MP2C Bio-Filter Media is a 1 cubic-foot ceramic black designed for koi and goldfish ponds. It is manufactured from a porous ceramic material with a high flow-rate and surface area. The material is highly fragile and not all blocks are uniform in shape nor size. Nevertheless, it effectively reduces nitrite and ammonia levels in garden ponds. PROS: Designed specifically for koi and goldfish ponds | Makes water clear and balanced | The large porous surface area lends itself to rapid bacteria growth CONS: Can be easily damaged during the shipping process

6. Aquapapa 6.6 lbs (3000g) Premier Bio Ceramic Rings

The Awuapapa bioceramic rings come in a package that weighs 6.6 pounds. They are housed in a white fish-safe mesh bag. Each ring is around 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch. These non-floating rings are ready for use in both saltwater and freshwater tanks. They are suitable to use in most filters. What’s more, they reduce the ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate levels. The main advantage of this type of filter media is the enhanced flow-rate and subsequent oxidation. What’s more, they require very little maintenance. PROS: The water-ready mesh bag with a fish-safe zipper is included | Good for use in both saltwater and freshwater tanks | Ring-shaped ceramic design increases water flow-rate for healthy propagation CONS: Takes a while for bacteria colony to establish itself

7. Ceramic Marine fish filter media

Aquarium Equip’s Ceramic Marine fish filter media comes in a 300-gram pack of round pellets. They come in a drawstring mesh bag that is suitable for use in most filter types. According to the manufacturer, these pellets have a 400-times more effective surface area. This makes for easy decomposition and bio-membrane detachment. While the ceramic material does break down over time, it can be recycled for use in plant soils. This product is suitable for canister filters.PROS: Gets a second life as plant soil additive | Comes with drawstring mesh bag for easy transfers into tanks | Suitable for both saltwater and freshwater tanks | CONS: Breaks down and clogs occasionally

8. Flexzion Aquarium Canister Filter Media

Flexion’s Aquarium Canister Filter Media is a black and white mix of bio ball ceramic rings, activated carbon, and textures spheres that come housed in a nylon mesh bag. This three-in-one kit is designed to maximize the surface area of your filtration system. It can be used with freshwater, saltwater, and reef tanks. The bio balls provide a large textured surface for bacteria to grow on. Meanwhile, the ceramic rings provide a porous surface area for efficient ammonia removal. Lastly, the activated charcoal pellets help clarify the water by extracting pollutants, discolorations, and cloudy buildup. PROS: The kit includes 40 bioballs, 500 grams of ceramic rings, and 500 grams of activated carbon | Generates a diverse and efficient anaerobic environment | Drastically improves water quality CONS: The bioballs may become clogged and need cleaning.

9. Govine Bio Balls

The Govine bio-balls are multi-colored and multi-textural balls that are housed in a mesh zippered bag. Each kit includes 500 grams of balls. The kit includes bio balls which promote healthy gas exchange and increase dissolved oxygen levels. There are also biological columns that feature a high flow-rate hole in the center. PROS: Includes both bio balls and biological columns | Includes a mesh zippered bag | A package of 500 grams is inexpensive and suitable for most large aquariums | CONS: Made from inferior materials that have the potential for contamination | Potential to alter your water chemistry


FAQs

Why do I need biofilter media?

Biological filtration is used to remove harmful ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate from aquarium waters. It relies on healthy bacteria colonies that use these chemicals as fuel. While bacteria naturally thrive in our water systems, media provides the necessary housing from them to grow to effective levels.

How does biofilter media help filter aquarium water?

Nitrifying bacteria rely on ammonia and nitrite as energy sources. After using it for fuel, it is converted into nitrate. When air flows through biofilter media (thanks to the mechanical pump provides the necessary oxygen for the decomposition process.

What order do I user mt biofilter media in?

It is important to always place your biofilter media in the cleanest area of your filter system. Typically, prefilter media should be used to prevent the accumulation of biomass solids from entering the media chamber. Layer the media in a way that you do not need to disturb the biofilter media upon cleaning the prefilter.

How much biofilter media do I need?

Typically, manufacturers will provide a suggested use per gallon. In many cases, the materials are prepackaged in a mesh bag designed to be directly incorporated into a specific-sized aquarium. With that being said, there is no specific way to calculate an ideal amount of bio media, as this depends on the type and size of fish, type and size of food, and water parameters.

What type of biofilter media should I use?

Biofilter media varies in design and material. They can be made from ceramics, plastic, or natural minerals. They are constructed in different shapes (blocks, spheres, rings, etc.) and come in a wide range of sizes. Try to select one that optimizes surface area, has a low risk for contamination, and offers a porous surface.

What is biological media?

Biological media is a filter filler that is designed to accelerate the growth of and house healthy bacteria colonies. It is an essential component of saltwater, freshwater, and mini reef tanks.

What conditions do bacteria need to thrive?

Nitrifying bacteria rely on a steady source of ammonia and nitrite for fuel. This is a form of waste produced by fish and absorbed into the water. Two different bacteria genus use oxygen to collectively convert these chemicals to nitrite and then nitrate.

How do I maintain my bio filter?

Biofoams and porous ceramic filter media sometimes become clogged with solids. In such cases, nothing more than lukewarm water should be used to clean off the blockages. In addition, some media materials can break down or require frequent replacement, in such cases this media should be removed in part and replaced with new material.

When should I replace my biofilter media?

Some biofilter media require replacement. Check with the manufacturer of your tank’s media before replacing. Typically, they can be left undisturbed until they become brittle or clogged.

Why are ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate bad?

Ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate are waste products produced by fish. High levels can be toxic and stressful to aquarium life forms. Common side effects of poor water quality include reduced growth rate, poor appetite, sluggish movement, and death.

What are potential setbacks of biofilters?

It takes six to eight weeks to start or reseed a bacteria colony. Therefore, some aquarists don’t bother to use them at all. Dedicated fish owners may opt to develop reserve colonies to prevent the long waiting period.

What is the nitrogen cycle?

The nitrogen cycle is the scientific term for the process in which ammonia and nitrite are broken down by bacteria to produce nitrate. Both saltwater and freshwater tanks rely on the nitrogen cycle to reduce water toxicity. Cycling, or the growth of healthy bacteria colonies in new tanks, is an essential component of building a thriving aquarium.

Can the filter media become clogged?

Yes. Biofilter media that is not porous enough will trap debris. Look for media with a flowing pattern that allows for the smooth transfer of aquarium material.

Do I still need a mechanical filter?

Yes. Biofilter media is designed to be used with a mechanical filter and prefilter. The mechanical filter helps circulate or pump the water through the tank and provides a steady stream of oxygen that is essential to decomposition.

How do I cycle my biofilter?

You must seed the nitrifying bacteria in order to properly start a biofilter. First, bulk up your mechanical filter with porous media. Run tests to determine the water parameters. Bacteria cannot thrive in chlorinated water. Next, provide alkalinity by adding a carbon source. Finally, adjust the pH so that it falls between 5.5 and 7.5.

How do I unclog my biofilter?

Some biofilters can be unclogged by being rinsed in lukewarm water. Never use soaps or chemicals. This kills the bacterial buildup you worked so hard to maintain. What’s more, it can contaminate an aquarium.

Which form of media is the best?

There are many different types of biofilter media to choose from. Go with a choice that provides a large surface space and maximum flow-rate. Opt for products produced by reputable companies known for using high-quality materials.

What are the dangers of nitrate?

Nitrate is less toxic than nitrite and ammonia. However, high levels will eventually stress out your fish. The ideal amount of nitrate in a tank is between 5 and 10 ppm. They may not be lethal, but high levels of nitrates can inhibit growth and reproduction.

Final Thoughts

Biofilter media can be added directly to your mechanical filter to reduce the amount of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate in your tank. It’s used to house healthy bacteria colonies and can be purchased for a low cost. Our list of top ten biofilter media provided a comprehensive look at some of the best products on the market.

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