Biological Live Bait Tank Water Filtration

Biological Filtration is the action of bacteria breaking down dangerous ammonia, converting it to nitrite, and then converting nitrite to less toxic nitrate.

A biological filter is a natural filtering system consisting of helpful bacterial colonies that, through a cycling process, convert pollutants in water to harmless nitrate. Nitrate is nitrogen, therefore this cycling process is also referred to as the nitrogen cycle, or cycling a tank.

Biological  Filtration Is done by certain types of bacteria that live on items in the tank or the surface of the tank material or best of all on Bio-Wheel Biological Filtering System

These bacteria are often called beneficial bacteria in contrast to the pathogenic or harmful bacteria that cause diseases.

The beneficial bacteria in biological filters digest waste that is dissolved in the water by combining the waste with oxygen that is also dissolved in the water. Certain kinds of beneficial bacteria combine ammonia and oxygen, that are
both dissolved in the water, to produce nitrite, water, and some energy. Other kinds of beneficial bacteria combine the nitrite and oxygen, that are both dissolved in the water, to produce nitrate and more energy.

The combined result of these two chemical reactions is to remove ammonia and oxygen from the water and to produce nitrate and energy.


Cleaning or replacing your filter cartridges or other filter material once the beneficial bacteria has been established in water containing Chlorine and Chloramines will kill the beneficial bacteria.

Also using some medications can disrupt the biological process.

In order to remove ammonia and nitrite from bait tank water using the biological method, the bacteria need plenty of oxygen in the water. Ammonia is very toxic to fish, nitrite is also toxic but less toxic than ammonia, and nitrate is much less toxic.

So the beneficial bacteria take oxygen and toxic ammonia from the water and produce rather harmless nitrate and more water.

Still other kinds of bacteria oxidize other kinds of fish waste to make those kinds of fish waste less toxic to fish.

These kinds of beneficial bacteria and lots of oxygen are the crucial factors in eliminating toxic waste and maintaining excellent quality water in your bait tank.

Most biological filters are limited by the amount of oxygen available in the water, and oxygen is not very soluble in water.

Biological filter systems benefit from the use of mechanical water filters.

Biological filter system, that rely completely on the water flowing through them to provide oxygen for their bacteria, are limited by the small amount of oxygen that is in the water and are almost always starved for oxygen.

 BIO-Wheels for Filtering bait tanks

Starting a biological filter:

A biological filter, or nitrogen cycle, naturally occurs over the first 4-6 weeks after the biological filter medium has been set up in the tank.

Cycling a tank is necessary to keep the water free of pollutants and the fish healthy, but while the filter is establishing itself, fish are exposed to toxic levels of ammonia and nitrite and often succumb to disease and death.
Fishless cycling removes fish from harm by establishing the biological filter before fish are introduced to the tank.

When fish are added to a new tank, even though the water is clean, ammonia begins to build immediately, as fish release ammonia through breathing and waste. However, ammonia is necessary to start the nitrogen cycle
the first step in establishing a biological filter.

In January 1999 Chris Cow who holds a PhD in organic chemistry, posted a paper online regarding fishless cycling. He got the simple idea to add ammonia to a fishless aquarium in order to get the nitrogen cycle going. At this point all of the normal phases of the biological filter can be triggered without worry. Ammonia levels can soar, followed by toxic levels of nitrite, until, finally, both become neutralized. With the tank fully cycled any ammonia created by adding fish will now quickly be converted to harmless nitrate by the established colonies of positive bacteria that make up the biological filter.

To use the fishless cycling method simply add 4-5 drops of pure ammonia per 10 gallons of water to a fishless tank.

Do this once a day until nitrite becomes measurable. At that point cut back to 2-3 drops per 10 gallons of water, per day.

When nitrite and ammonia are both at zero, and nitrate is measurable, the tank is cycled. A substantial water change of 25% or more is advised, then your tank is ready for a full complement of bait.

Only pure ammonia, without detergents or colors, should be used. Ammonia with additives will foam up when you shake the bottle.
Pure ammonia will not foam.

A simple declorinator/de-chloraminer is recommended while cycling fishless, rather than products like Prime or AmQuel that sequester ammonia by converting it to non-toxic ammonium.

The concern is that sequestered ammonia may be harder for bacteria to process, and therefore could slow down the establishment of the bacteria.

Once the biological filter is established, adding products like Prime and AmQuelare excellent and will not hamper the biofilter.

Biofilter bacteria thrives at about 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

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