Bottled Bac Theory

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ggNoRe

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This time around I used dry rock and tons of different bottled bacteria mainly based on what BRS YouTube vids were telling me. I had about as bad of an ugly stage as you could imagine with horrid cyano and dinos. Looking at these threads it seems I'm not the only one and battling nasty cyano and dinos seems more and more common. My friend who is also in to reefing has noticed the same thing with his systems. Out of the 5 or so saltwater aquariums we have started every time we used bottled bac the tank didn't do so well. But when we used old school methods with 0 bottle bac no cyano or dinos to be found.

TLDR: Did you use bottled bacteria to start your system? Was your ugly stage a breeze or a nightmare?

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ggNoRe

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I think the difference is due to the biodiversity on real live rock...bottled bacteria only have a few strains so very little biodiversity. Live rock is also already fully colonized while dry rock is not... bacteria have to take time to grow and spread over it
What has your experience been? Used bottled bac? How did it go?
 
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ryshark

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I have a new setup which was 100% dry rock and bottled bacteria (XLM) to start. I got some GHA which is gone now but still have not had any cyano or Dinos. I was also dosing MB Clean (after the cycle) at least once per week and feeding live phyto. Maybe this helped. My rocks have been wet since November 2021.
 
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livinlifeinBKK

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What has your experience been? Used bottled bac? How did it go?
I've always used live rock because I'm into the microbiome and therefore did a good bit of research into it before hand...dry rock not only takes time to be colonized, but the microbiome created by dry rock is much different from the natural microbiome in terms of types of bacteria present (I have a suspicion that this "synthetically made" reef microbiome promotes algae growth)...reading from the threads it seems it's especially a common issue with using dry rock and bottled bac...the info I used here is in a video by Aquabiomics (a company that analyzes the microbiome's of many aquariums)
 

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I agree that every tank that I have started with dry rock and bottled bacteria has gone the ugly phase stage except for a most recent tank that I started.
Bleached old dry rock and Brightwells XLM, week after the cycle added their MicroBacter Clean weekly and have not seen any ugly phase. Has been 4 months now.
 
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SaltwaterSky

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I think the difference is due to the biodiversity on real live rock...bottled bacteria only have a few strains so very little biodiversity. Live rock is also already fully colonized while dry rock is not... bacteria have to take time to grow and spread over it
I think this is an important element of the bottled bac theory. Also the amount of colonized bacteria in substrate (live rock, sand/substrate, filter media) is very low so populations are volatile and fragile.

First, some critical definitions to have right:
I'm going to try and break down my best understanding of what we know of the reef microbiome. First and foremost, our tanks constantly have dinoflagellates in them. For those who don't know, "Zooxanthellae are unicellular, golden-brown algae (dinoflagellates) that live either in the water column as plankton or symbiotically inside the tissue of other organisms." This is an important concept. They aren't a tank invader. They aren't likely some invasive tank species that needs to be squashed - they need balance and a good population of healthy natural predators.

Autotrophs are organisms that can produce their own food from the substances available in their surroundings using light (photosynthesis) or chemical energy (chemosynthesis). Heterotrophs (bottled bacteria) cannot synthesize their own food and rely on other organisms — both plants and animals — for nutrition.

Bottled bacteria (should, looking at you Vibrant) contain a blend of heterotrophic bacteria strains.

Moving on. Tanks need diverse microbiomes just like larger ecosystems do to regulate populations and insure no population grows unchecked/has no predator. Now imagine the conditions of a new, sterile tank. Extremely low bacterial populations seeded, low bacterial diversity, low latent nutrient carry (live and dissolved elements). Additionally, most light their tanks much more heavily than they should. Now consider a photosynthetic dinoflagellete population that very little heterotrophic bacteria keeping it in check, and to top it off, any dosed bacteria is already likely weak and when introduced to a tank with little to predate on, struggles to maintain healthy populations. The reality may be a lot of the bottled bacteria we dose may die and become early food for both survivng bottled bacteria and even Dinos. Autotrophs however like dinoflaggelates can do just fine in these conditions, and without a healthy strong population to predate upon them, can grow and bloom out of balance in a full on, visible dinoflaggelate problem.

Point and case being, bottled bacteria is not a no strings attached cheat code, you dont put a few capfuls in and instantly transmute your water into a rich, diverse microbiome. Even with dosing, these populations depending on how well nurtured can take months to seed a tank. So this ideology that bottled bacteria is a master key solution to cycling seems a little optimistic to me - I believe in it fully and have seen it help cycle tanks and establish colonies of heterotopic bact. But not understanding what sterile tank conditions and the general modern dry rock tank start experience involves on a chemical and biological side is a key for dissapointment and missed expectations. It's why most experienced reefers, even when using bottled bacteria, will take live rock/media substrate from another tank (even if just 1 piece) to seed a new tank, or have running tubs of culturing live rock to avoid this lengthy seeding process that is to be expected with true dry rock. Don't even get me started on what some of the dry aragonite rock we have today can leech (PO4 galore).
 
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gbroadbridge

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This time around I used dry rock and tons of different bottled bacteria mainly based on what BRS YouTube vids were telling me. I had about as bad of an ugly stage as you could imagine with horrid cyano and dinos. Looking at these threads it seems I'm not the only one and battling nasty cyano and dinos seems more and more common. My friend who is also in to reefing has noticed the same thing with his systems. Out of the 5 or so saltwater aquariums we have started every time we used bottled bac the tank didn't do so well. But when we used old school methods with 0 bottle bac no cyano or dinos to be found.

TLDR: Did you use bottled bacteria to start your system? Was your ugly stage a breeze or a nightmare?

Pics because everyone loves pics:

PXL_20210521_232702183.jpg PXL_20220214_204302527.jpg PXL_20220515_014515354.jpg

Last build - dry rock and substrate.

No ugly stage at all and no nasty algae to date. This tank going on 15th month.

I used multiple bottled bac (MB7, Dr Tims, and RSea) and big oversize UV 24/7 after the first month.
 

SaltwaterSky

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One great way you can see this happen is to take a piece of live rock and let everything on it die - even in a large trash can it will blow the nutrient levels (NO3 & PO4) through the roof. There are so many organisms populating that rock and so much total absorbed nutrients in both the living/dying and cycle of life experiencing bacteria in, on and around the rock. It will smell awful, like death. That rock took a long time to build up that population - think of it for a hypothetical rock like 20 cubes of frozen food worth of nitrate/phosphate for a large rock - there's no way early on for a dry rock to absorb and seed all these nutrients quickly in its bacterial population, because we aren't putting those amounts of food and nutrients into the tank that fast, for good reason. Rather, we slowly but surely build these populations through feeding and the consequent nutrient cycling that happens in the tank, gradually and over long periods of time.
 
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livinlifeinBKK

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One great way you can see this happen is to take a piece of live rock and let everything on it die - even in a large bucket it will blow the nutrient levels (NO3 & PO4) through the roof. There are so many organisms populating that rock and so much total absorbed nutrients in both the living/dying and cycle of life experiencing bacteria in, on and around the rock. It will smell awful, like death. That rock took a long time to build up that population - think of it for a hypothetical rock like 20 cubes of frozen food worth of nitrate/phosphate for a large rock - there's no way early on for a dry rock to absorb and seed all these nutrients in it, because we aren't putting those into the tank. Rather, we slowly but surely build these populations through feeding and the consequent nutrient cycling that happens in the tank, gradually and over long periods of time.
Agreed...there's no way to artificially recreate real live rock...time will make it more biodiverse but even then it won't reach the level of rock out of the ocean and this microbiome is what supports life in many ways
 
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ggNoRe

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Last build - dry rock and substrate.

No ugly stage at all and no nasty algae to date. This tank going on 15th month.

I used multiple bottled bac (MB7, Dr Tims, and RSea) and big oversize UV 24/7 after the first month.
So we have someone who used bottle bac successfully with over one year maturity. I find this very interesting that you also used a strong UV. UV seemed to be the number one factor to help me rid of dino/cyano and keep them gone with no noticable side effects.
 

livinlifeinBKK

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So we have someone who used bottle bac successfully with over one year maturity. I find this very interesting that you also used a strong UV. UV seemed to be the number one factor to help me rid of dino/cyano and keep them gone with no noticable side effects.
I think UV can be a good tool to get through short term problems but probably shouldn't be used long term because they kill the free swimming bacteria... anything that promotes sterility probably isn't the best long term choice although I know some people do use them successfully that way...its probably not a difference you'd really notice but I imagine the corals that naturally prey on these bacteria know
 
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I would like to turn everything upside down and try to see the problem from another angle. IMO - most - but not all - cyanobacteria/dinoflagellate problems are caused of too low nutrients levels - not to high - especially according to phosphorus and new started aquariums. How will this fit in according to dry rocks and bottled bacteria?

1. Dry rocks

There is different types of dry rocks but the problems seems to be connected to dry rocks from ancient coral reefs mined on dry land - like Marco rocks. There is - IMO - a myth that these rocks contains a lot of phosphorus that will leak into the aquarium in the start. IMO - it is the total opposite - they are total depleted of phosphorus and will absorb huge amounts in the start before equilibrium of phosphate between the water and in the rocks is established. Living rocks and dead/dry former living rocks contain bound phosphorous that will seed the water during start up. And - IMO - an aquarium needs some PO4 in the water during the start up in order to establish a healthy population of microalgae.

2. Bacteria

As @SaltwaterSky stated - there is two main groups of bacteria - autotrophs and heterotrophs. Both are depended of phosphorous for their growth - the autotrops need it in the water (inorganic P) and the heterotrophs mostly use phosphorous from other living/dead organism (organic P) but it seems that they sometimes have ability to use inorganic P too. The famous nitrification bacteria are autotrophs - most others is heterotrophs. In the start - there is very low levels of organic matter in mined dry rocks and if you seed with heterotrophs - one of the drawbacks (there are several) is that they need to use dissolved inorganic P.

When I use bottled bacteria in the start - I only use pure nitrification bacteria not all of these mixes that exist. I do not either use any organic carbon source (DOC - Dissolved Organic Carbon). If - I would use bottled heterotrophic bacteria it would be after I have introduced a life stock

3. Conclusion

IMO - there are at least these two factors that will deplete the aquarium water of phosphorus during a start with mined dry rocks, hence favour organisms that have tricks in order to get this phosphorous.

4. What to do

It's why most experienced reefers, even when using bottled bacteria, will take live rock/media substrate from another tank (even if just 1 piece) to seed a new tank
My favourite method and that's the way my latest tank was started (together with fish already from start - lined up here) No use of bottled heterotrophic bacteria but bottled autotrophic bacteria.

If this not possible - I would suggest to add PO4 during start in order to seed the rocks with bounded PO4 that can act as a storage and reserv of this important nutrient.

Sincerely Lasse
 

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This time around I used dry rock and tons of different bottled bacteria mainly based on what BRS YouTube vids were telling me. I had about as bad of an ugly stage as you could imagine with horrid cyano and dinos. Looking at these threads it seems I'm not the only one and battling nasty cyano and dinos seems more and more common. My friend who is also in to reefing has noticed the same thing with his systems. Out of the 5 or so saltwater aquariums we have started every time we used bottled bac the tank didn't do so well. But when we used old school methods with 0 bottle bac no cyano or dinos to be found.

TLDR: Did you use bottled bacteria to start your system? Was your ugly stage a breeze or a nightmare?

Pics because everyone loves pics:

PXL_20210521_232702183.jpg PXL_20220214_204302527.jpg PXL_20220515_014515354.jpg
I used dry rock and FritzZyme TurboStart 900 for a nano tank. Cycled within 4 days. Fully stocked the tank a week or so later with two clownfish, anemones, and a bunch of corals. Could not see any algae for a month. Eventually saw some barely cover some rocks (thin layer), but that was that for as long as I had that tank.

That was one case though so I did not really previously report it or anything like that. Could have just been blind luck.
 
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I would like to turn everything upside down and try to see the problem from another angle. IMO - most - but not all - cyanobacteria/dinoflagellate problems are caused of too low nutrients levels - not to high - especially according to phosphorus and new started aquariums. How will this fit in according to dry rocks and bottled bacteria?

1. Dry rocks

There is different types of dry rocks but the problems seems to be connected to dry rocks from ancient coral reefs mined on dry land - like Marco rocks. There is - IMO - a myth that these rocks contains a lot of phosphorus that will leak into the aquarium in the start. IMO - it is the total opposite - they are total depleted of phosphorus and will absorb huge amounts in the start before equilibrium of phosphate between the water and in the rocks is established. Living rocks and dead/dry former living rocks contain bound phosphorous that will seed the water during start up. And - IMO - an aquarium needs some PO4 in the water during the start up in order to establish a healthy population of microalgae.

2. Bacteria

As @SaltwaterSky stated - there is two main groups of bacteria - autotrophs and heterotrophs. Both are depended of phosphorous for their growth - the autotrops need it in the water (inorganic P) and the heterotrophs mostly use phosphorous from other living/dead organism (organic P) but it seems that they sometimes have ability to use inorganic P too. The famous nitrification bacteria are autotrophs - most others is heterotrophs. In the start - there is very low levels of organic matter in mined dry rocks and if you seed with heterotrophs - one of the drawbacks (there are several) is that they need to use dissolved inorganic P.

When I use bottled bacteria in the start - I only use pure nitrification bacteria not all of these mixes that exist. I do not either use any organic carbon source (DOC - Dissolved Organic Carbon). If - I would use bottled heterotrophic bacteria it would be after I have introduced a life stock

3. Conclusion

IMO - there are at least these two factors that will deplete the aquarium water of phosphorus during a start with mined dry rocks, hence favour organisms that have tricks in order to get this phosphorous.

4. What to do


My favourite method and that's the way my latest tank was started (together with fish already from start - lined up here) No use of bottled heterotrophic bacteria but bottled autotrophic bacteria.

If this not possible - I would suggest to add PO4 during start in order to seed the rocks with bounded PO4 that can act as a storage and reserv of this important nutrient.

Sincerely Lasse
When I started my tank (post 8), I was also adding Phosphates and Nitrates to keep them at 0.03 and 2ppm respectively until the tank was generating enough on its own. Lights off until I added animals at around the 6 week point.
 

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When I started my tank (post 8), I was also adding Phosphates and Nitrates to keep them at 0.03 and 2ppm respectively until the tank was generating enough on its own. Lights off until I added animals at around the 6 week point.
Nitrates or ammonia?
 
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sixty_reefer

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Calcium Nitrate
That could have been one of the problems, at the start of a tank you may need to add ammonia to feed the nitrifying bacteria, nitrates are the end result of the nitrogen cycle and can be utilised by Cyanobacteria and dinoflagellates more easily.
 

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I would like to turn everything upside down and try to see the problem from another angle. IMO - most - but not all - cyanobacteria/dinoflagellate problems are caused of too low nutrients levels - not to high - especially according to phosphorus and new started aquariums. How will this fit in according to dry rocks and bottled bacteria?

1. Dry rocks

There is different types of dry rocks but the problems seems to be connected to dry rocks from ancient coral reefs mined on dry land - like Marco rocks. There is - IMO - a myth that these rocks contains a lot of phosphorus that will leak into the aquarium in the start. IMO - it is the total opposite - they are total depleted of phosphorus and will absorb huge amounts in the start before equilibrium of phosphate between the water and in the rocks is established. Living rocks and dead/dry former living rocks contain bound phosphorous that will seed the water during start up. And - IMO - an aquarium needs some PO4 in the water during the start up in order to establish a healthy population of microalgae.

2. Bacteria

As @SaltwaterSky stated - there is two main groups of bacteria - autotrophs and heterotrophs. Both are depended of phosphorous for their growth - the autotrops need it in the water (inorganic P) and the heterotrophs mostly use phosphorous from other living/dead organism (organic P) but it seems that they sometimes have ability to use inorganic P too. The famous nitrification bacteria are autotrophs - most others is heterotrophs. In the start - there is very low levels of organic matter in mined dry rocks and if you seed with heterotrophs - one of the drawbacks (there are several) is that they need to use dissolved inorganic P.

When I use bottled bacteria in the start - I only use pure nitrification bacteria not all of these mixes that exist. I do not either use any organic carbon source (DOC - Dissolved Organic Carbon). If - I would use bottled heterotrophic bacteria it would be after I have introduced a life stock

3. Conclusion

IMO - there are at least these two factors that will deplete the aquarium water of phosphorus during a start with mined dry rocks, hence favour organisms that have tricks in order to get this phosphorous.

4. What to do


My favourite method and that's the way my latest tank was started (together with fish already from start - lined up here) No use of bottled heterotrophic bacteria but bottled autotrophic bacteria.

If this not possible - I would suggest to add PO4 during start in order to seed the rocks with bounded PO4 that can act as a storage and reserv of this important nutrient.

Sincerely Lasse

Well said!
 
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