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Bio Balls vs Ceramic Rings – Pros And Cons

To maintain a thriving and perfect aquarium it is very important to have a proper filtration system. They help keep the nitrogen cycle going on and keep the lives within your tank healthy.

Anything that you place in your filter and that change the water quality flowing through it is a filter media.

Not only do you have various filters available to select from, but you also have to decide what type of filter media you want to use.

You may have heard of biological, chemical, and mechanical filtration.

But you perhaps do not know that there are various kinds of specialty filter media within these categories.

So, without further wait let us get to learn about them in brief.

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Different Kinds of Filter Media

Mechanical filter media

This filter media basically traps solid waste particles and eliminates them from the water column.

A sponge is the most common kind of mechanical filter media and it is easy to use and durable.

Filter wool is well-known too as it traps finer particles compared to the sponge.

Also, you can use gravel, which can even serve as a biological filter.

Biological filter media

This media offers a surface for helpful bacteria to grow and break down the dissolved substances present in the aquarium water.

The most popular types of biological filter media are bio balls and ceramic rings,

and we shall learn more about them through bio balls vs ceramic rings comparison.

Chemical filter media

Chemical filter media is available in various forms.

The most common one is activated carbon, which eliminates dissolved organic compounds from aquarium water. It thus helps keep it clear and clean.

Coral sand can also be used together with under gravel filters. It will raise the hardness and pH of soft water with time as the sand keeps dissolving.

Now that we are aware of the filter media types let us explore the two most common ones through this bio balls vs ceramic rings comparison.

What are Bio Balls?

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You perhaps are aware of the presence of good bacteria in your aquarium. With their help, ammonia is converted into nitrite and nitrate is then converted into nitrate.

These bacteria are very important for the nitrogen cycle and need a place to stay in your tank.

[amazon link=”B00U9TKJDK” title=”Bio Balls” link_icon=”amazon” /] serve as little plastic homes for these nitrifying bacteria.

They have an open structured pattern that looks attractive. But more than that it has been created this way to serve an important purpose.

Owing to the open structure these balls enjoy more surface area. How does this help?

Well, bacteria love clinging to the surfaces of objects and as bio balls have more surface area it can be a home to more bacteria.

Certain bio balls even have foam or ceramic pieces within them thus offering even greater surface area.

Bio balls are available in different sizes and designs but they also serve the same function. They sit in your tanks filter.

As water moves through the bio balls, the nitrifying bacteria present in them filters your water.

This eliminates nitrites and ammonia and the water quality improves dramatically.

Pros and Cons of Bio Balls


  • They offer a greater surface area for beneficial bacteria to cling.
  • The more the number of bacteria present, the better is the water filtration.


  • Bio balls only carry nitrifying bacteria.
  • They need a regular maintenance program to prevent detritus from building up on them.

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What are Ceramic Rings?

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Ceramic rings, also known as bio rings, are unglazed little pieces of fired ceramic. They look quite like white beads and you can also get them in colors like brown, gray, or cream.

The outer part of the [amazon link=”B000HHSG5M” title=”Ceramic Rings” link_icon=”amazon” /] has lots of small pores or holes and also a central hole. This makes sure water runs over these rings and also through them.

Nitrites and ammonia naturally build up in your tank. If the bacteria present in your aquarium do not remove them your fishes will eventually die.

So, you need these beneficial bacteria, and ceramic rings, just like bio balls, prove as homes for them.

Beside of the surface area there is more place available for bacteria to live. Since ceramic rings have many little pores, lots and lots of bacteria can thrive there.

What is more interesting is that ceramic rings are known to hold another type of helpful bacteria, the denitrifying bacteria.

Such bacteria eat nitrates and can survive only in the absence of oxygen. Yes, denitrifying bacteria will help fight nitrates, but that does not mean you can avoid changing water.

Using ceramic rings is also very easy. You just need to introduce them to your tank filter and it will start doing its job.

Pros and Cons of Ceramic Rings


  • Ceramic rings carry both nitrifying as well as denitrifying bacteria.
  • They offer a great surface area for helpful bacteria to thrive.


  • The pores of these rings can get easily clogged.
  • As the pores get clogged, the biological filtration procedure keeps getting less effective over time.

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Bio Balls vs Ceramic Rings

Both of these filter media has been created to function differently and both of them are effective.

Let us now draw a basic comparison of the two by learning how they are similar and what the differences are.

What they share in common

Bio balls and ceramic rings are biological filter media.

Both of them have a good surface area for beneficial bacteria to live.

Both of them are homes to nitrifying bacteria.

What are the differences?

Bio balls can only carry nitrifying bacteria but ceramic rings carry both nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria.

The pores of ceramic rings offer extra space for bacteria to live. But they can get clogged easily and even permanently blocked.

This makes the biological filtration less effective over time and you will need to replace the rings.

This, however, is never the case with bio balls and they can last you almost forever.

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Both the bio balls and the ceramic rings are wonderful biological filter media.

They help eliminate nitrites and ammonia which can be harmful to the precious lives in your tank and leave the tank water clean and clear.

Each of them serves its purpose perfectly well and has its shares of pros and cons.

Which one you should select among these is more a matter of preference.

Aaron Boyd
Aaron Boyd

Hello, I’m Aaron Boyd, the proud owner and author behind Aqua Movement. I hope my article was able to answer your questions. If you want to learn more about me, click the home icon above.

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