Some of the old-school reefers (or if you had a freshwater tank) must remember using Bio-Balls, Ceramics or Siporax for bacteria fixation about 10 or more years ago.

The disadvantage pointed at that time was that these media will enhance the production of Nitrate. And that using Live Rock, Deep Sand Beds and strong skimming was the best filtration method.

More recently, I found out on a Brazilian web-forum that they’ve resurrect the use of Siporax (I’m originally from Portugal and we share the same language with Brazil – Portuguese). This has came to my attention because it has sparked a huge debate on different threads, with very interesting comments by the users.

The question that rises to me at this point is: – “Why won’t we use filter medias (bio-balls, ceramics) for bacteria fixation?”

Theoretically, filter medias have everything to work as filtration methods, it makes perfectly sense that by promoting bacteria fixation you will have more nutrient reduction.

So… – “Why didn’t that worked in the past? Has anything changed over the last decade?”

That’s an easy answer… Yes, these are changing times! There have been a lot of progress on the pro-biotic field and we now understand better our reef’s biology. I think the obvious reason for filter medias not working in the past was because we were up-regulating the bacteria production and back then we didn’t know that this process is a large Carbon consumer.

Looking it retrospectively, what I postulate that may have happened is that Nitrate (and Phosphate) was building up onto the aquariums because there was few carbon sources present. Carbon was acting as a limitative reagent of this process, because it was swiftly consumed by bacteria and therefore they stopped “consuming” NO3 and PO4.


Thus, what I would like to see is more people debating the answer for the initial question. Convince me, tell me… Why shouldn’t this work?

In light of recent discoveries, I think If we use a carbon source – let’s say Vodka, Bio-pellets, or any other carbon sources of the market – I believe that filter medias will provide a shelter for bacteria fixation and it will dramatically reduce the nutrients on the aquarium. (Feldman, K. 2011)

Finally, what’s the advantage of this new (old) method when we have so many “pro-biotic” options nowadays? Besides turning our reefs more efficient biologically, it can draw back the use of Live Rock to a minimum (just for decoration). Meaning, less cost ($) with live rock and more important, your reef become Eco-friendly (= less harvesting of live rock from natural reefs).

One thing I have learned from all these years in the hobby, there are many ways for you achieve success and none is absolutely perfect. As a matter of fact, that is one of the most beautiful things on reef-keeping, it keeps me motivated.

We have now several “methods” at our disposal to setup a reef filtration: Jaubert method, Berlin Method and more recently pro-biotic methods. Can I dare the reef-community and name the method that I briefly summarized on this article as  the “Brazillian Method”?

 This aquarium belongs to a Brazillian reefer – Roberto Denadai. He barely used live rock and he has 2L of Siporax in the sump. He has a Ultra Low Nutrient System, with constant levels of Nitrate and Phospate close to zero.



Feldman, K.S.; Place, A.A.; Joshi, S.; White, G.; 2011 Bacterial Counts in Reef Aquarium Water: Baseline Values and Modulation by Carbon Dosing, Protein Skimming, and Granular Activated Carbon Filtration. Advanced Aquarist, March 2011

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