One question we get frequently from Oklahoma koi lovers is, “What’s better to use Lava Rock or Bioballs?” The short answer is, “it depends.” Just like shopping for anything else there are advantages and disadvantages to both, as well as cost.
With an assortment of filter media out there in the pond world from filter pads to bio-ribbon to lava rocks to bio balls. The purpose of your filter media is to house billions of beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms that keep your Oklahoma pond alive, crystal clear and algae-free. Let’s take a look at the lava rock versus bioballs debate.
Lava rock – the igneous rock that forms as an erupting volcano’s molten lava cools and hardens – is very porous. When chunks of it live in your filtration system, you provide a lot of surface area for beneficial bacteria to colonize and grow. That’s what makes it such a great filter media.
It does have some drawbacks:
1. Clogs up: Over time, the porous rock can become easily clogged with muck and debris. Once the holes and pockets are clogged, they can become very difficult to clean out – which ultimately creates less overall surface area.
2. It’s Heavy: They may be porous chunks of rock, but hefting bags of it takes some strength – particularly when its wet and full of gunk.
3. Hard Water: Lava rock naturally contains a variety of minerals, including iron and magnesium, that could affect your water’s pH, making it harder. Hard water can make it more difficult to treat algae blooms.
4. Hard to clean: It seems you can rinse and rinse but they never come clean especially compared to the bioballs.
Bioballs, are plastic spheres made up of dozens of thin rods that provide plenty of surface area for beneficial bacteria to thrive.
Compared to lava rock, bioballs have some definite benefits.
1. Easy to Clean: Bioballs can also become clogged, but they are easy to clean. Just rinse them off with water from your pond and you will be good to go.
2. Shape Shifters: The round shape allows bio balls to easily conform to any filter, no matter its shape.
3. Indefinite Lifetime: Because they are made from long-lasting material, bio balls will not degrade and will function equally well year after year.
4. Lightweight, Easy to Handle: Each one of the tiny, plastic spheres weighs a scant 0.3 ounces; 200 of them weigh a whopping 3 1/2 pounds. They are easy to deposit and remove from your filter thanks to a mesh filter bag.
Back in the early years we did not have much of a choice. There were the old hair rollers, sponges and a few other things people were using. Now we prefer using bioballs. Being lightweight and easy to get in and out of the Biofalls makes this an easy decision. Granted we still have a few features out there that still have lava rock in them.
Good filtration starts with good media. When starting your Oklahoma pond in the spring and periodically through the season, make sure to check that all your filters are in good working order. Doing so will save you time, hassle, and money because you will stay ahead of any potential problems and avoid dealing with insufficient filtration.