Frequently Asked Questions
What do NP-Active Pearls do in my aquarium?
NP-Active Pearls help remove nitrate and phosphate from your aquarium water so these nutrients are not available to algae and other nuisances.
In layman terms - how do they remove nitrate and phosphate?
Basically, the process is converting the nitrate and phosphate in the aquarium water into bacteria cells that are then removed from the aquarium by a protein skimmer or cleaning your mechanical filter. Nitrate and phosphate are nutrients and can only be removed by water changes or by having some organism consume it. In many aquaria, without plants as competitors, algae will consume the nitrate and phosphate resulting in a tank full of unsightly, messy algae. In many marine aquaria cyanobacteria, which grows like a red to black carpet over the entire aquarium, will consume the nitrate and phosphate. To grow algae and bacteria you need carbon, nitrogen (nitrate) and phosphorus (phosphate). Studies show that many aquaria lack the right form of carbon for bacterial growth but NP-Active Pearls are a natural carbon source beneficial bacteria can use. As these good bacteria grow, they remove the nitrate and phosphate from the water basically out-competing the algae for the nitrate and phosphate.
What are NP-Active Pearls?
NP-Active Pearls are a pure, specially made biodegradable carbon for use in aquaria. They are polymers with the technical name poly hydroxyalkanoates commonly referred to as PHA. PHAs are made from bacteria so they are truly 100% natural and completely biodegradable into carbon dioxide and water.
Why use NP-Active Pearls?
NP-Active Pearls are made specifically for use in aquariums. They are the result of a unique partnership between Telles, Aquaculture Systems Technology and DrTim's Aquatics.
Why is PURE NP-Active Pearls Important?
There are other bio-polymers on the market and some are even PHA-based. But many of the other bio-polymers, whose purpose is really to make plastic products, are only 60 to 70% pure. They contain fillers, additives and other chemicals so they can be molded into forks, plates or other things. Not only do these bio-polymers not supply as much biodegradable carbon for the bacteria as NP-Pearls but the chemicals and fillers are left behind in your aquarium! So with PURE NP-Active Pearls with no fillers etc you get more carbon for your money and no nasty residues.
How do NP-Active Pearls work?
NP-Active Pearls are carbon and energy that bacteria store for later use. But bacteria need phosphorus and nitrogen as well. In the aquarium environment, bacteria use NP-Active Pearls to assimilate phosphate and nitrate in the water to grow, producing bacterial biomass, which is than easily harvested.
How are NP-Active Pearls different than other brands of Bio-Pellets?
NP-Active Pearls are PHA based and 100% pure. Other bio-pellets are made from such polymers as hydroxybutyric acid (PHB), polylactic acid (PLA) and polybutyleneadipate-co-butyleneterepthalate (PBAT). In addition, other bio-pellets may not be as pure as NP-Active Pearls. The main use of all biodegradable polymers is to make biodegradable products such as forks, knifes, plates etc. In order to do this, however, the polymer must be combined with binders, fillers and other things. NP-Active Pearls are free of all these impurities - they cannot be used to make biodegradable products. Other bio-pellet companies do not disclose the source or purity of their pellets.
How many NP-Active Pearls should I use?
The recommended amount of NP-Active Pearls is 1/4 cup per 20 gallons of aquarium water (3ml per gal). When first using NP-Active Pearls, DrTim's Aquatics suggest starting with 1/3 dose or 1 ml per gal (1/4 cup per 60 gal) and over a few weeks increasing the amount of NP-Active Pearls in your system.
How should I use NP-Active Pearls?
NP-Active Pearls are best used in a reactor or similar device where the pearls are kept in constant motion. It is important to maintain sufficient water flow as the bacteria do consume oxygen. If clogging occurs, clean the reactors and rinse the beads before re-starting your reactor system.
Should I continue to use a protein skimmer when using NP-Active Pearls?
Yes. Basically, bacteria are using the NP-Pearls to grow and converting the phosphate and nitrate in your aquarium to more bacterial biomass. Protein skimmers cannot remove phosphate and nitrate in their chemical forms but skimmers do remove bacterial cells. So by converting these nutrients into bacteria cells and having the skimmer remove the cells from the aquarium, you are effectively removing nitrate and phosphate. Without a skimmer, the bacterial cells will eventually die and the nutrients will be recycled in the aquarium. For small systems, without a skimmer, a good mechanical filter or pad that will trap the bacterial biomass is adequate, but only if you remove and clean the filter/pad on a regular basis.
How often do I have to replace or replenish NP-Active Pearls?
The rate at which additional NP-Active Pearls need to be added varies for each aquarium due to factors such as feeding amount, fish load etc. Generally, it is best to replenish your pearls every 6 to 9 months. NP-Pearls active pearls never need to be replaced unless your reactor shuts-off and the pearls turn black and produce an offensive odor.
Should I continue to dose vodka when using NP-Active Pearls?
While there is debate about whether one should continue vodka dosing when using NP-Active Pearls DrTim's Aquatics recommend you discontinue vodka dosing. Both methods are adding carbon to your aquarium which is good but too much of good thing can be bad so it is best to choose one method and stick with that. Given that using NP-Active Pearls is easier than vodka dosing, DrTim's Aquatics, of course, recommend this method.
Should I continue to use GFO when using NP-Active Pearls?
Again a debatable subject. The process of the bacteria growing and removing nitrate and phosphate in your aquarium with external sources of carbon, NP-Active Pearls or vodka, is complex. However, the bacteria do need some phosphate to grow so using GFO and pearls can remove too much phosphate and stop the process. DrTim's Aquatics recommend using GFO with the pearls when the orthophosphate levels are above 1 mg/L-P and discontinuing once levels drop below 0.5 mg/L-P.