Where to put ceramic rings in filter is very important to get the most out of your bio-media. Ceramic rings are biological media that provides a very large surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow and live. This bacteria on your ceramic rings is required to complete the Nitrogen Cycle in your tank, which converts harmful ammonia and nitrite in to the less harmful nitrate.
Ceramic rings, and any other form of biological media, always go after the mechanical filtration (sponges) and before the chemical filtration (carbon). In a canister, place your ceramic rings in the tray between your sponges and chemical media.
Why do ceramic rings go in this order?
The order of filtration in any type of filter is always the same. Mechanical first, then Biological and finally Chemical. Water must be mechanically filtered first in order to remove the particles of fish waste, uneaten food, dirt, and debris from the water.
This will ensure that the the surface of your ceramic rings does not get “clogged” with any detritus. Beneficial bacteria use the surface area of your ceramic rings to grow and live. You always want the cleanest water, free from detritus, to reach your bio-media (ceramic rings).
The bacteria that grow on your ceramic rings helps to convert deadly ammonia and nitrite into the less toxic form of nitrate. Nitrates are removed from your tank by scheduled water changes performed by you, the fish keeper.
Nitrates can also be removed by adding plants in your aquarium. Plants consume the nitrate helping to complete the full nitrogen cycle.
Can ceramic rings go inside your tank?
Yes, Ceramic rings can be placed in a bag and placed in your tank and beneficial bacteria will also grow on the surface area of the rings. This method is used when there isn’t enough space inside your filter for all the Ceramic rings desired.
Another good reason for this method is to create seeded bio-media (bio-media that has bacteria living on it) that can later be moved into another tank or filter for a quick cycling of that tank.
With that being said, It is optimal to place your bio-media inside the filter as the filter provides an oxygenated flow of water over your ceramic rings and beneficial bacteria will flourish and multiply easier and faster.
Are my ceramic rings working?
Ceramic rings, as well as all other types of media, are designed to allow for the growth of beneficial bacteria. This bacteria will consume and convert the harmful byproducts in your tank that come from fish waste, uneaten food and other decaying organic matter.
You can be assured that your ceramic rings are working when your tank completes the nitrogen cycle. Completing the cycle would mean there is enough beneficial bacteria in your tank to efficiently remove ammonia and nitrite and convert it into the less harmful nitrate.
Testing your water frequently with API’s Master Test Kit for ammonia, nitrite and nitrate will help you determine when this nitrogen cycle has completed.
Watch how to use the API Master test Kit for a great instructional video.
Where to put ceramic rings in filter – HOB
A Hang on Back Filter (or HOB) does not have as much media capacity as a canister filter would. But your ceramic rings will still be placed in the same order. Depending on what type of HOB you have your media will go from back to front, or from bottom to top. With mechanical being first, then your ceramic rings and finally chemical media.
Here is a helpful article with more details on using an HOB Filter.
Alternatives to Ceramic Rings
Matrix is a highly porous media designed to provide exceptionally efficient bio filtration for single site removal of ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate from freshwater, marine, and reef aquaria.
Each liter of matrix provides over 160,000 cm2 (170 sq. Ft.) of surface, equivalent to over 40 L (10 gallons) of typical plastic ball media.
Fluval BioMax bio rings have a complex pore system creating an optimal environment where beneficial bacteria can thrive.
BIOMAX bio rings have more capacity than most biological filter media and allow ideal water movement throughout the media to ensure optimal contact time for efficient biological filtration for freshwater and marine environments.
Lava Rock is very popular in the aquarium hobby. It is widely used as a great source of surface area for beneficial bacteria to grow and thrive on. Lava rock can be broken down to any size to fit your specific filter. Make sure to rinse any dust of thoroughly before installing into your system.
Unconventional Alternative to Ceramic Rings
Yes, you read that correctly. Pot Scrubbers are a very cheap but very efficient form of bio-media. They work just as well as all the other expensive brand name bio-medias like listed above. They take up very little space and can be compressed in order to use as much as possible in your filter.
Pot Scrubbers are not widely used in the hobby mainly because big brand name companies prefer us hobbyist to spend the big bucks rather then to use something as cheap as pot scrubbers.
They work so well they are the only form of bio-media inside my dual FX6’s keeping my 210 gallon Over Stocked African Cichlid tank cycled and crystal clear. Below is a great video on setting up my filters with pot scrubbers as well as their results!