Before you begin to question my sanity, a bio reactor is just a fancy name for a place for good bacteria to colonize (the same bacteria that eat ammonia and nitrites). It works on the principle that the good bacteria thrives in an oxygen rich environment (see bioballs) and can help to facilitate an effective method of using one media to colonize good bacteria allowing for easier water changes, or complete cleaning of the tank without completely needing to re-cycle the tank. Well you may wonder why not just use bio balls or let the bacteria colonize in the filter material, but one of the main problems with that is your tank is constantly changing. Obviously you have to replace the filter material eventually. There’s also the theory that the good bacteria are most effective when it is “young” as opposed to build up and stagnant on a surface. This is where the bio reactor can help. Since the filter media is constantly moving around and coming into contact with the other pieces of material it allows the regeneration of new and young bacteria to constantly replace the old, thus providing much improved capabilities of the bacteria. Also the fact that it can be moved from tank to tank can provide many benefits for many of us betta owners.
How to build your own homemade bio reactor
It’s worth noting that this isn’t a “must have” and that you can’t cycle and filter properly without it. I just found it to be a very neat and interesting DIY project that seems to work very well for me. Since I built one for my 10 gallon I have not seen one ammonia spike no matter what I do. I changed 100% of the water at one point and after a few days of it running again the fish were ready to go back in. No ammonia to speak of. If that’s not enough….it just plain looks cool.
For anyone that might have concerns with this blowing Mr. Betta around I can say that it won’t bother them. Since the bubbles are self-contained in the bottle the force of the air won’t be enough to do more than ripple the water at the slightest. I find using an adjustable air pump works best so you can gauge how much water it’s moving.
Please note that this was not my idea. I found a video on youtube showing different ways to build this thing. I took what I saw and began building these. After building 5 or so this was the method that I came up with that I felt worked the best. So it’s sort-of my design, but not my concept.
First I’ll go over the materials needed for this project:
Alright….lets build this thing
- Some Cotton swabs (Q-tips)
- Rubbing Alcohol
- Your bottle of choice. For 10+ Gallon tanks I recommend the Fiji water bottle. It’s thick and square so it works wonderfully for the bigger tanks.
- Some air tubing. Clear or black, your choice.
- Suction cups. I used some from petco. Came in a 6 pack.
- Paper towels
- Your air stone. Should look like the one in my picture (below)
- Something to poke your holes in the bottle. I used a pick to poke the initial holes in the bottle and then followed up with a slightly larger flat head screwdriver to wallow out the holes a little larger in diameter.
- Some decent scissors. I used electrical scissors but you shouldn’t need anything more than some standard utility scissors.
- Something to remove adhesive. I am using commercial grade label remover, but anything strong should work fine. Varnish, mineral spirits, etc. all work.
- Your air pump, obviously Size depends on the size of your tank. I used a dual pump to run dual bio reactors.
- Most importantly, you’re going to need your bio media. There are a few different media choices, but I recommend using K1 filter media since the entire reactor was built around this media. I have seen straws used before though so it’s up to you to experiment.
- Fine Grit sand paper
Alright, now that you have the necessary materials we are ready to move on to construction.
First thing you are going to do is make sure the inside of your bottle is clean. I just used hot water since it was previously filled with….well…water lol
Once the inside is clean you are going to want to clean the outside. Start by removing the label on the bottle. Once completely off take your paper towel and put a little of your adhesive remover on it and wipe off the adhesive that held the label to the bottle. Make sure to get it all off. Once you are certain that it is gone get a fresh paper towel and using your rubbing alcohol, clean the entire surface of the bottle. This will remove all the impurities left behind by the previous chemical.
Now that your bottle is clean you can move on to making the hole in your cap to allow the air tube to enter the reactor and seat the air stone. I took my pick and poked a hole directly in the center of the bottle cap. From there I remove the cap from the bottle and took my scissors and began to work the hole until it was just a tiny bit smaller than the diameter of the air line (you don’t want your substrate to get in there). When the hole was the right size I did the same from the other side of the cap. This helps to remove the plastic burs that accumulate and make the hole perfectly round and smooth.
Now you can feed your tubing through the hole and into the air stone. The air stone should sit perfectly upright on the other side of the cap.