Bio pellets pros and cons have been discussed among hobbyists since a few years ago when the new technology was introduced. Just like anything new in a hobby, some embraced them, some shunned them, and some wanted to know what the actual bio pellets pros and cons were.
Research has been done to find the effectiveness of bio pellet reactors, but as of this writing, nothing seems to have become the definition of bio pellets pros and cons within the hobbyist community. But there are plenty of real life experiences stories of owners and the results they found.
Bio Pellets Pros
There is a lot to like about bio pellet reactors, once they have established themselves in an aquarium.
Controlling nitrates (dissolved organic wastes)
Controlling nitrates is the whole job of a bio pellet reactor, and it has proven to be very effective at doing this. Some of our customers have more fish in their tanks than one would recommend, and they feed very heavily. They see no adverse effects from nitrate levels, and when we test their water, they measure very low, or zero, in nitrate.
Some say that they notice their water being clearer, and a lot less nuisance algae.
Bio pellets pros and cons includes how easy it is to maintain. Bio pellet reactors usually only need maintenance every 3-6 months. When they do, it is a relatively simple matter of opening the reactor and adding more pellets.
Bio pellet reactors run. They don’t leave dusts or films to be cleaned up in the sump or to get blown around the display tank.
Bio Pellets Cons
There’s always a down side to anything good, and bio pellet reactors do have them. One of them can’t be helped, and the rest can be controlled.
Bio pellet reactors do not work by themselves
The concept of the bio pellet reactor is that the reactor provides a food source to bacteria which assimilate nitrates into their bodies, and then subsequently get taken out of the aquarium by a protein skimmer.
Without a good quality protein skimmer, the bio pellet reactor is doing its job, but the bacteria are going nowhere. An added plus to having a good protein skimmer is that it will aerate the water to make up for the oxygen being used by the bacteria in the reactor.
Several say that since the bio pellets are a food source for a type of bacteria, then they are a source for others, including Cyanobacteria. also known as “Red Slime,” Therefore, it leads to more red slime.
In my experience, I can’t verify this, although I can completely see the logic behind it. I can’t say that it’s not true, either.
Some tanks with bio pellets have some Cyanobacteria. I know one that had a pretty massive bloom a few weeks after reloading the reactor. But I also know many that haven’t seen a single spot of the red slime.
I’d come closer to agreeing that it can lead to increased bacterial activity overall (I have never heard of one involving fish or any other animals), and if Cyanobacteria is one of those bacteria present, then the chances rise for a red slime bloom, and the owner or maintenance technician should take steps to control it.
Bio pellet reactors can shock an aquarium
This is where people get into trouble with bio pellets. Bio pellets need to “ramp up” over several weeks, possibly months.
Bacteria are being introduced into an aquarium. Starting them slowly gives the aquarium the opportunity to get used to their presence and to adjust to them. Then over time, the level gets increased, and the aquarium adjusts along with it, similar to adding fish to an aquarium slowly over time.
Unfortunately, enough people don’t know this, and they start their reactor at full strength, adding all of the bio pellets they have at one time, and they create a situation of a bacterial overload. A term for this which is popular with the hobbyists is “nuke the tank.”
Bio pellets pros and cons: observations
There are various methods for controlling nitrates (and other nutrients/pollutants), and each has their supporters and detractors, as well as their pros and cons. Bio pellets are no different.
What we have noticed is that beyond bio pellets pros and cons, it’s a matter of personal preference and how one likes to operate their aquarium. We’ve seen that the more hands-on someone is with the entire operation, the more likely they will want to dose with additives or vodka. The more someone wants to have a beautiful tank without having to deal with dosing tended to prefer reactors.
For maintenance customers, I have seen them perform well between our visits. Once they get going, the nitrate levels are typically very low or non-existent. The only variable has been how long it takes them to get going (I have seen 6 weeks to 6 months in an extreme case).