Nitrate Reduction: MarinePure® Bio-Filter Media versus Chaeto Algae

March 14, 2024 Cermedia

In an aquarium, there can be a fine line between good and detrimental Nitrate levels. Controlling Nitrates has been a long-standing battle in which hobbyists become natural problem solvers and through wit and trial and error they narrow down to a strategic way to keep Nitrates at acceptable levels.

There are many ways to control Nitrates. You can do so with water changes, biological filter media, protein skimmer, live plants, etc. (You can read more on how to control your Nitrates by reading this blog: What Are the Best Ways to Lower Nitrate Levels in Your Aquarium? – CerMedia Porous Ceramic Structures.) Today, we will be focusing on the comparison between using MarinePure® bio-filter media and maintaining a Chaeto Refugium in a saltwater aquarium.

What is Chaeto?

Chaetomorpha algae, also referred to as Spaghetti Algae due to its resemblance to tangled spaghetti, is a single-celled macroalgae widely used in Saltwater Aquariums. When given the right environmental conditions, Chaeto works as a natural biological filter that removes excess nitrates from the aquarium, thus helping to maintain water quality, all while providing a habitat for various microorganisms and small vertebrates.

Chaeto algae uses photosynthesis, absorbing light energy and converting it into chemical energy. This energy allows the Chaeto to produce its own food. However, for the Chaeto to effectively grow and sustain itself, it needs the aquarium water to provide various essential nutrients, including Nitrates. This is how the Chaeto algae helps you control Nitrates in your aquarium, because it literally absorbs the Nitrates and uses it for growth.

Chaeto: How To

To use Chaeto in your aquarium you will need to provide it with the proper lighting, and lots of it. It will grow and thrive at its best when it is exposed to full-spectrum lighting for 12-14 hours per day. Just the same way it needs lighting, you must also provide it with 8 hours of darkness.

Additionally, your aquarium must provide the Chaeto with nutrient rich water. In a reef aquarium, the Chaeto algae will primarily absorb excess Nitrates and Phosphates, but it can also benefit from supplemental nutrient sources, such as iron and trace elements. Testing your water regularly will help you ensure the Chaeto is receiving the necessary nutrients it needs to thrive.

Water flow is also important for your Chaeto. It relies on the water to help it move and rotate, making sure that the entire algae is absorbing enough light. Additionally, water flow helps bring a steady amount of nutrients to the algae, it keeps the algae from getting too much residue stuck in it and it also prevents it from getting even more entangled.

Chaeto: Issues

You must harvest the Chaeto regularly to maintain healthy growth and prevent it from overgrowing, which can occur quickly. The aim is to harvest about 20% per month. As an extra bonus, some of your aquarium inhabitants may love to eat Chaeto. Find out if you can give your Chaeto trimmings to them as a tasty treat.

Although the Chaeto is a valuable ally to have in your aquarium, there are some potential challenges to be aware of. As I have briefly mentioned, the Chaeto is a very quick growing alga. Overgrown Chaeto can become invasive, potentially clogging pumps and filters. It can overwhelm other plants, blocking them from obtaining enough light. Neglecting to harvest the Chaeto can cause a domino effect; The Chaeto will outgrow the aquarium, outpace the available nutrients causing it to start to die back, furthermore cause an influx of nutrients in the system which will then cause the corals and the other aquarium inhabitants to stress.

On the other hand, there are some hobbyists that will experience hardship growing their Chaeto. The two most common reasons for why the Chaeto is not growing are: 1. Not enough or inadequate lighting, and 2. Not enough nutrients in the water. These two will correlate with each other. You must provide the Chaeto with both enough lighting, and enough nutrients. Making sure you have the correct lighting and checking the water’s parameters regularly will help you prevent this issue.

The Chaeto is a low cost, natural and sustainable method for Nitrate reduction. Not only does it enhance the overall aquarium aesthetics, but it can also support biodiversity by providing a habitat for microorganisms. However, it’s important to note that while a thriving Chaeto can provide predictable and effective Nitrate reduction, most often than not, the Chaeto alone is not enough, and it should not be solely relied upon as the primary means of nutrient control. There are so many variables that need to be considered, such as bio-load rate, carbon availability, oxygen levels, etc. Each system is completely different from the next. Not only can the Chaeto be a little finicky if it doesn’t have the right environment conditions to grow. It can also get out of control and take over your aquarium if there is a surplus of nutrients and lighting.

MarinePure® for Nitrate Control

Alternatively, the use of a MarinePure® bio-filter media can be very effective at Nitrate reduction, although results do differ. Results range from

hobbyists telling us that their Nitrates are lower since they have started using the MarinePure and therefore they do not need to perform water changes as frequently as they used to. To hobbyists having to add Nitrates for their corals because the use of MarinePure has cause their Nitrates levels to be virtually zero.

Having said that, when a hobbyist wants to drive Nitrates as low as possible in their system, we recommend the thicker cross sectioned MarinePure BLOCK. We advise placing it in a low flow

area of their sump or refugium.  The bacteria that reduce nitrates do so in a low oxygen environment.  By keeping the flow low, highly oxygenated water is not pushed into the BLOCK. Placing it in a corner away from the pump therefore the water can move slowly into the BLOCK and lose its oxygen while converting ammonia and nitrite into nitrate in the initial steps of the Nitrogen Cycle.

In conclusion, the Chaeto algae is a valuable tool for Nitrate control in saltwater aquariums when it is being given the proper environment and maintenance. Its natural filtration abilities and its aesthetic appeal make it a popular choice among hobbyists. However, it may not provide enough Nitrate reduction or may not be the best solution for all aquarium keepers due to the higher maintenance levels. The MarinePure BLOCK can offer a reliable, low maintenance means for nitrate control. Many hobbyists have successfully used both MarinePure and Chaeto in the refugium together.  The results tend to be more consistent than using chaeto algae alone.

Understanding MarinePure® Biofilter Media’s Role in the Nitrogen Cycle

MarinePure® biofilter media is a man-made ceramic. The unique combination of its vast surface area and open porosity with “Thin Bio-Film Technology™” allows for a healthy biofilm to develop. Due to its open pore structure, water can move easily throughout the entire media and consequently allowing the bacteria and its biofilm to have access to all nutrients and nitrogen compounds it needs to successfully colonize. Ammonia and nitrites are easily eliminated. Additionally, due to the nooks and crannies of the pore structure of MarinePure, anaerobic bacteria have a chance to develop in the inner structure of the media allowing for the reduction of nitrates.

Aquarium maintenance can be reduced because MarinePure biofilter media does not need to be regularly cleaned and water changes are reduced due to the lower nitrate levels achieved. MarinePure contributes to a more consistent water chemistry and allows for a higher fish load. Contact for more information. Cermedia LLC, located in Buffalo, NY manufactures MarinePure® Biofilter Media.



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