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Hi! Just starting a 90 gallon (previous reef tank) for mbuna cichlids. There is a sump and I'm wondering what would be the best bio media to add into it. I'm thinking it should go in the middle section. The water comes in the left side into a filter sock. Maybe some of that filter fabric you cut to size in second section. I was also thinking of adding a bunch of guppy grass in there, but was told it's not worth it…


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More plants. More! More!!!
*ahem*
And yes, while a few tufts of (algae covered?) 'Guppy Grass' waving about in your sump would look a bit, well.... interesting. It won't do much for the all-important biological filtration your African Mbuna will need (and push to it's limits) if your tank is (over) stocked correctly.
So, with that said.
- My personal favorite for biological media is Matrix Rock. Lot of surface area on that stuff.
- Some people love to use rinsed out, small-particle sized lava rock for the same reasons (it's heavy though).
- Plastic Bio-Balls work pretty good.
- You could play around with fluidized media in that thing. The down sides to those is that they take a bit longer to get established with beneficial filtration bacteria, and they can be LOUD.
- I actually saw a sump filled just chock-full of little green, plastic army men! Despite how visually hilarious it looked.... the surface media supplied by all the plastic pieces, worked great!
- Alternatively, you could just fill that thing up with cut up pieces of filtration foam. Should work great! And people (on this site - Strum!) do swear by the stuff. :)
 

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It took a minute, but I heard my name....

Ahem...

YES! Foam! I do, in fact swear by 20-30 PPI foam. Continue reading for dogmatic explanation...
The reason is that this has the most USEABLE surface area. A tremendous amount of autotrophic and heterotrophic bacteria can populate your media section and NOT your water column. This is the key to crystal clear water and healthy fish (IMHO/IME). The fact is this - you have fishies cranking out things that bacteria will eat. If you farm the bacteria on media in your sump, they don't grow in the water. If they don't grow in the water, then our pets are not fighting off innocuous pathogens from the water, they can fight off harmful ones...

The key here though, is to actually force water through the foam. As the biofloc builds up, the water will do its best to find a way around it. Also, foam should only be cleaned when water won't flow through it anymore. This is biological media and not mechanical filtration. Mechanical should definitely be done before it hits the foam, of the foam will plug too fast.

One fact here - Marketing claims for surface area of ceramic media are based on a process called nitrogen adsorption. This is the process in which they measure how much surface are there is for a molecule of nitrogen to adhere to. This is a technically correct statistic (professionally, I believe that technically correct is the best kind of correct), but it is also meaningless and deceptive. The fact is, just because a molecule of nitrogen will adhere to a surface, does not mean a bacterial cell can do the same. Nitrogen molecules are very very small.

Another fact - anaerobic denitrification is not possible in the fish-tank environment without a sophisticated setup that will flow water through a tremendous amount of media very slowly in a chamber that has absolutely no oxygen, and is being fed a source of carbon (like vodka or sugar).

I personally would actually do a fluidized bed in the central chamber, powered by air. I've actually converted my primary filtration back to MBBR and have found ways to deaden the sound.
 
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