Does my decade old sand bed actually nitrify? Who eats Ammonia in our tanks?

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taricha

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@Nano sapiens thanks for this. This is very much the idea of the thread. Some tanks may have a lot of nitrification (how much is a lot? 50% Of ammonia nitrified? ), according to my measurements, some may have very little ( < 10% of ammonia uptake rate in mine is nitrification)

To be clear about aquabiomics results and what flampton said above, you have many nitrifiers, AND also have high pelagibacteraceae, BUT these are mutually exclusive groups.

Clearly a different ballgame is happening in different tanks. Does your tank generate/ accumulate NO3?
 
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Pelagibacterales are heterotrophs so cannot incorporate ammonia without having access to organic carbon. (They're also auxotrophic for glycine and reduced sulfur) This suggests to me you have decent nutrition in your tank and started with some amount of ocean substrate.

Yes, that would be correct as I read on Wiki that they are not photosynthetic and consume DOC.

Mostly 20+ year old live rock from the now defunct Harbor Aquatics (best guess is Indonesian) and fish fed daily (LPS corals ~2x/wk). Feeding is certainly not excessive, but it is very regular so these 'oligotrophic, scavenging bacteria' have a very stable supply of nutrients.
 

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@Nano sapiens thanks for this. This is very much the idea of the thread. Some tanks may have a lot of nitrification (how much is a lot? 50% Of ammonia nitrified? ), according to my measurements, some may have very little ( < 10% of ammonia uptake rate in mine is nitrification)

To be clear about aquabiomics results and what flampton said above, you have many nitrifiers, AND also have high pelagibacteraceae, BUT these are mutually exclusive groups.

Clearly a different ballgame is happening in different tanks. Does your tank generate/ accumulate NO3?

Good that you posted this and went to all the trouble testing with your substrate/water. Who uses ammonia is an interesting topic!

A little history: 1st 2 years or so I had high NO3 (20+ ppm). After I greatly improved my maintenance routine (regular detritus removal being the most significant) for the next 8 years NO3 was typically very stable at 0.5 - 1.0 ppm. Then after a high nitrate event (up to 40 ppm, due to trying to house too many fish sent to me in error in a shipment), I removed the extra fish and used carbon dosing of vinegar (without a skimmer). This worked well to bring NO3 down to around 4 ppm, but left me with clear snotty slime clogging my pumps, overflows, etc. A few short months of judicious feedings and diligent maintenance and that's now in the past.

So, to answer you question, NO3 is stable week-over-week at 2-3 ppm. The really interesting question to me is what changes, if any, did carbon dosing have on my system's bacterial community? Just need one of those 'Black Friday' specials from AquaBiomics to find out :)
 
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taricha

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The sand samples get started this week and I will isolate my bucket algae scrubber and measure the NH3 uptake of that piece of the system. The other data I will get for you is the aquarium NH3 uptake with the scrubber disconnected. Then we can compare and contrast.

Should I get AquaBiomics to test my system to round out the data collection?
The aquabiomics data would be especially interesting if you measure nitrification on the opposite end of the spectrum from me. But it would be an Illuminating comparison to go with our chemistry data regardless.
 
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taricha

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A little history

Thanks! Where in there was the aquabiomics sample done?

Then after a high nitrate event (up to 40 ppm, due to trying to house too many fish
So under high input conditions, your tank indeed generates lots of nitrate as might be guessed from your microbiome data. Nifty.
 
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Thanks! Where in there was the aquabiomics sample done?


So under high input conditions, your tank indeed generates lots of nitrate as might be guessed from your microbiome data. Nifty.

AquaBiomics report: 1/20/2020

Apparently not enough suitable anoxicanaerobic substrate for the additional denitrifiers necessary to properly process the excessive nitrate production (coralline encrusted liverock and a 1" sand bed, only).
 
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taricha

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Not so sure this would be easy to fix. Maintaining an aquarium with carbon dosing will necessarily favor heterotrophs. This includes utilizing algae for carbon dosing as they also increase overall DOC and POC levels.

If you want to maintain a larger nitrifying population (especially in areas with lower O2 percentage) you will need to decrease carbon input some how.
I take your point.
Adding nitrifiers is easy. Keeping them in an environment that they have not thrived in requires changes.
 
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taricha

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Wanted to follow-up on the weird "water-only" nitrification result, where my tank water seemed to nitrify some amount even without sand.
To your point, I'm replicating this (mostly the "water-only" nitrification) as well. It's weird enough to look at harder. I'll see in a couple of days.

@taricha here are the total ammonia concentrations for a sample of my aquarium water spiked with ammonium chloride over 48 hours. 30 mL samples were placed in glass stoppered 50 mL flasks which were placed on an orbital shaker in the dark. Triplicate measurements. My aquarium water was bashful about taking up NH3.


00E12ED5-169E-4AD4-B301-92BF2F3F4BDC.png

To echo Dan's results above, replicating my earlier data it looks pretty definitive that the water is not nitrifying anything. I did 3 bottles of tank water only: 1 in the fridge, and 2 on the orbital shaker. I also redid one at 2% sand.
Replicate TankWater Ammonia.png

Left graph: tank water only, (no sand) two bottles on orbital shaker (0%snd and 0%snd_b), and one in the fridge (0%fridge). They track nearly identically, with slopes of almost zero. 2% sand definitely consumes ammonia as seen previously.
Right graph: the Redo data is in yellow stars. Ammonia consumption of zero sand looks really close to nothing. Consumption of ammonia by 2% sand looks just like my previous data.


And the nail in the coffin: NO2/NO3 production
the 2% sand produced NO3 in close agreement to the ammonia consumption - i.e. true nitrification.
Ammonia to NO3 redo.png


None of the water-only samples produced a drop of NO2 or NO3.
So nothing interesting in my tank water as far as ammonia consumption goes.
[will update first post]
 

Dan_P

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Wanted to follow-up on the weird "water-only" nitrification result, where my tank water seemed to nitrify some amount even without sand.




To echo Dan's results above, replicating my earlier data it looks pretty definitive that the water is not nitrifying anything. I did 3 bottles of tank water only: 1 in the fridge, and 2 on the orbital shaker. I also redid one at 2% sand.
Replicate TankWater Ammonia.png

Left graph: tank water only, (no sand) two bottles on orbital shaker (0%snd and 0%snd_b), and one in the fridge (0%fridge). They track nearly identically, with slopes of almost zero. 2% sand definitely consumes ammonia as seen previously.
Right graph: the Redo data is in yellow stars. Ammonia consumption of zero sand looks really close to nothing. Consumption of ammonia by 2% sand looks just like my previous data.


And the nail in the coffin: NO2/NO3 production
the 2% sand produced NO3 in close agreement to the ammonia consumption - i.e. true nitrification.
Ammonia to NO3 redo.png


None of the water-only samples produced a drop of NO2 or NO3.
So nothing interesting in my tank water as far as ammonia consumption goes.
[will update first post]
Is there a time-of-day effect between the two water samples? Algae is dumping dissolved organic carbon but not all day long. I have evidence (noise in the data might make this a belief rather than evidence) that dumping occurs later in the day or when nitrogen becomes depleted. I would not be surprised that a late day water sample was gobbling up ammonia. Just a thought.
 

Belgian Anthias

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Key points:
  • My system is capable of removing ammonia quickly: ~4ppm/day total ammonia-Nitrogen (TAN)
  • The sand processes ammonia slowly: ~0.1-0.2ppm/day TAN meaning the other 95+% happens somewhere else
  • The tank water itself also has detectable ammonia processing: ~0.05ppm/day TAN [oops: see update in post 48]
  • In the sand and the water, the processing is provably Nitrification
  • A Recommended Minimum Dose of Biospira consumes ammonia faster straight out of the bottle than my 10 year old sand
  • I don't know if this is good or bad


The classic idea of nitrification is that ammonia is oxidized to nitrite and nitrate by bacteria in surfaces like sand, rock, and filters. But ammonia is also the preferred N source for photosynthetic organisms. Everything from coral to single cell algae. Additionally, heterotrophic bacteria can use whatever organic carbon sources are available to consume ammonia as well. So Just because ammonia disappears doesn't mean that it went through the ammonia -> NO2 -> NO3 "cycle", it might've just been consumed and become biomass instead.

There's a somewhat contrarian theory that in some tanks, ammonia mostly goes to algae and coral and very little gets nitrified at all.
See this article for that idea: #1 WHAT IF I TOLD YOU... Ammonia is causing your algae problems?
Also AquaBiomics finds some systems that have lots of nitrifiers and some that have barely any Ammonia Oxidizing Bacteria (AOB) and undetectably low Nitrite Oxidizing Bacteria (NOB). Article: The Microbial Community in a Professional Coral Aquaculture System



Anyway: Some things made me think I have a system that would fit this - processing ammonia in non "cycling" ways, so I went looking for data to measure my ammonia eaters. This answered a lot of Q's for me and raised a few more.

As a baseline comparison, here's the tank response to a one-time dose of ammonia during the day period, just a few measurement to get the general size and scale of the rates my system processes ammonia. (pH was 8.0 - this level of ammonia is well below EPA 1-hr level of 2.9 TAN @ pH 8)

Ammonia Tank Rate.png


The tank consumed ammonia at 0.161ppm/hr Total Ammonia Nitrogen (TAN). This works out to 3.9ppm/day.

So how much of this actually happens in the sand?

I dosed tank water to just under 0.5ppm TAN and split it into 100mL samples. Four samples got a series of different amounts of sand 0%,1%, 2% or 5% (a.k.a. 1, 2, or 5mL in 100mL sample) of white sand from the top of the sandbed where water flows across it pretty well.
Two other samples got1% sand + newly opened bottled starter products:
1% sand + BioSpira (recommended minimum dose)
1% sand + One and Only (5x recommended minimum dose)
They were placed in the dark on an orbital shaker at 70 rpm to keep the water moving and tested over 2.5 days.

Ammonia Rates .png


The series of samples with varying amounts of sand are in shades of blue, the 1% sand + biospira (red) acted more like the 5% sand. The 1% sand + One and Only (green) acted basically like just 1% sand. The trendlines were used to estimate the consumption rates.
Surprisingly, even no sand at all - just 100mL of water clearly consumed ammonia. [oops: see post 48 update]

Here's visualizing the rate of ammonia consumption (slopes from previous graph) vs the amount of sand there was.
Amm Rate vs Sand.png


There is probably diminishing returns for higher levels of sand since at 5% the sand is piling up and a smaller portion is in contact with the moving water. BioSpira +1% sand clearly effective above what the 1% sand in the sample could do, while One and Only had no detectable effect. What proportion of sand is most applicable to my tank? My tank water is 40cm deep, and likely only the top 1cm of sand (or less) is reasonably in contact with moving water above, so 2% or less seems a good ballpark approximation to how my sandbed behaves.
I therefore estimate my tank sand can eat somewhere in the range of 0.10 to 0.15ppm/day TAN, or only <4% of my overall system consumption of 3.9ppm/day, meaning only 4% of that maximum daily ammonia consumption could be done in the sand+water.
Speaking of water, this graph makes it really clear that my tank water processes ammonia. In the 1% sand samples, the water may be doing half the work. Crazy! (Ammonia Oxidizing Archaea??)
[edit: this was a fluke. See post 48 for better data]

Okay one last thing. I haven't actually shown this ammonia was oxidized to nitrite/nitrate. It might have just been consumed by heterotrophs or algae in the sand. So let's look for NO2 / NO3.
Nitrite is not worth plotting a graph: Biospira produced 0.35ppm NO2, all other samples produced zero NO2. So maybe it was oxidized to NO3.

So lets take a look at NO3.

NO3 produced.png


Wow that looks a lot like the Ammonia consumption data in the previous graph (except there's more NO3 than expected in the One and Only). So let's see how tightly they match up. (The NO3 measurement in Biospira sample was corrected for the Nitrite interference using @Dan_P work here)

Ammonia to NO2_3.png


This plot compares the amount of Total Ammonia - Nitrogen consumed over the 2.5 days (on the left) to the NO2 + NO3 - nitrogen accumulated at the end (on the right)
First, the sand-only samples (in blue) match up very well. Secondly, the bottle products (solid red and green lines) showed way too much NO3 for the amount of Ammonia they consumed, so I checked for NO3 in the bottles - they are nitrifiers after all. Indeed, recommended min dose of Biospira adds 2.8ppm NO3, and 5x Rec'd min dose of O&O adds 2.3ppm NO3. After correcting for the NO3 that came in the bottles, the ammonia consumption and NO2 & NO3 production line up very well (red and green dashed lines). So clearly the ammonia consumption that happens in the sand and water really is nitrification, oh, and the bottle of O&O really was dead - guess it got frozen at some point. (BTW the slight increase from ammonia-N consumption to NO3-N production in these samples is probably from some organics in the sand being remineralized during the 2.5 day experiment. Note the effect increases with increasing sand level.)

So here's the takeaway.
I can measure the consumption of ammonia by my sand (and water!) and show that it's nitrification. And it's really small - maybe only 4% of the rate of the ammonia consumption in my system overall. The bulk of ammonia in my system is probably eaten by algae and coral.
I think my tank may be an extreme case. My 70 gal system has probably a kg of mixed coral and several hundred grams of algae, algae grows and exports quickly. It's had a history of sometimes large carbon dosing, but nothing in the past few months. Either my tank or my sump is always lighted. The rates of ammonia consumption capable by coral and algae when lighted is huge. So it makes sense that nitrification looks like a bit player in my system, my tank always runs zero detectable NO3, and any that is dosed disappears quickly. I plan to send a sample to Aquabiomics tomorrow to see if the genetic approach tells the same story.
But I don't think I have the only tank like this! I think the hobby might have quite a few systems where the traditional nitrogen cycle is essentially a non-factor. Is this good? Bad? I don't know. But it's clear from the effect of biospira, that this would be easy to change if someone wanted to.
What is measured is what is left over at the moment of measuring. Most measurable ammonia will be in the form of ammonium. One can not discuss the nitrogen cycle without including the carbon cycle.
Nitrate is the end product of aerobic remineralization., together with phosphate and all other essential building materials left over when all organic carbon in de biowaste is used up by heterotrophic bacteria breaking down the biowaste to retrieve their carbon needed for growth and for respiration. Most organic carbon is used for energy production, CO2 production, only a part is used for heterotrophic growth. Nitrate is produced using the ammonium leftover after complete remineralization. As heterotrophic bacteria using ammonium as a nitrogen source are able to grow a lot faster than autotrophs, the amount of ammonium usable for nitrification is limited to the C/N ratio of the biowaste which has to be remineralized and the food source. The capacity to reduce produced ammonia within a limited period of time represents the carrying capacity of the system, the bioload the system is able to support. The C/N ratio of the feed is a determent factor for the possible nitrate production. Nitrate is safely stored nitrogen, normally used for closing the carbon cycle, for photo-autotrophic growth, reusing the by remineralization produced building materials to close the carbon cycle.
The balance between reducers and producers.
Nitrogen is also constantly exported from the system. In a balanced system, the available nutrient reserve has an N/P ratio below 10 in weight.
In a normal aerobic remineralizing biofilm +- 15% of all nitrate produced in the biofilm will be exported as N2. Nitrate is used in healthy biofilms by autotrophic sulfur bacteria to remove constantly produced HS,

In systems not using a skimmer the balance between reducers and producers can easily be managed by managing the C/N ratio of the feed and controlling growth rates, as does a coral controlling its holobiont. That is why we try to keep the DOC level as low as possible.
A simple biofilter makes active management possible, the carrying capacity can be adjusted and corrected to the needs at all times.
 
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That is why we try to keep the DOC level as low as possible.

Who tries to keep DOC as low as possible and why?

Many of us dose organic carbon, and are thus intentionally raising it. I did that to promote the growth of bacteria and thereby feed filter feeders. It may also lower nitrate, but that is not why I dosed vinegar since nitrate was fine before I started.
 
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taricha

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Is there a time-of-day effect between the two water samples?
Could be. First round water was pulled at 4pm, Redo round was pulled at 9am.
It's also slightly possible that I did something dumb, clearing pumps and such in the hours prior to the first sample - possibly putting unusual amounts of surface associated microbes into the water before I pulled the water sample for the first round.


One can not discuss the nitrogen cycle without including the carbon cycle.
Nitrate is the end product of aerobic remineralization., together with phosphate and all other essential building materials left over when all organic carbon in de biowaste is used up by heterotrophic bacteria breaking down the biowaste to retrieve their carbon needed for growth and for respiration.

...The C/N ratio of the feed is a determent factor for the possible nitrate production.
To this point, Lately my most typical food has been a fish flake that I've done BOD and COD measurements on and determined it has in the ballpark of 50%-55% organic carbon. Label Protein is 53% ( implies ~8.5% Nitrogen)
This would estimate a C/N ratio of 6.2
I don't know if that's high or low for a fish flake, but I do suspect it is higher than if I fed a more meaty product like mysis, shrimp, mussels etc.

This (flake vs meaty frozen) could relate to variations in NO3 accumulation in different systems as well.
 

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Who tries to keep DOC as low as possible and why?

Many of us dose organic carbon, and are thus intentionally raising it. I did that to promote the growth of bacteria and thereby feed filter feeders. It may also lower nitrate, but that is not why I dosed vinegar since nitrate was fine before I started.

Corals are able to manage the growth rates within their holobiont managing this way their own nutrient supply. They do that by excreting mucus, managing organic carbon and nutrients availability within the holobiont, this way also managing growth rates, oxygen availability ( BOD), and the CO2 source for the symbiodinium.. A high DOC content in the system water will influence normal coral functions and may become harmful, even being responsible for coral bleaching and coral dead. ref: MB Anthias 2019

Carbon dosing has always been promoted for removing safely stored nitrogen. The cure may be worse than the disease.

Dosing carbon is changing the C/N ratio. When done correctly only shifts the carrying capacity from autotrophic based towards a heterotrophic-based carrying capacity, changing the balance between reducers and producers. It may have a huge impact on the coral holobiont if overdosed.
Nitrate production can easily be managed by managing the protein content in the feed.
Dosing carbohydrates based on the nitrate level may kill corals. The nitrate content does NOT represent the availability of other essential nutrients and building materials in systems using a skimmer, the organic carbon source may build up and it has been shown this may harm corals.
Heterotrophic growth only uses DOC as a carbon source, so, heterotrophs create DOC but are also reducing it while retrieving their carbon source, returning organic waste into reusable inorganics. Adding only organic carbon one has the intention to remove inorganics already present, transforming inorganics into heterotrophic growth, increasing the imbalance between producers and reducers. The growth of a special type of bacteria is promoted, the r-strategists. As no energy has to be spent for breaking down organic waste to retrieve its carbon source very high growth rates can be retrieved. ( bacterial bloom) The problem is created due to overdosing as dosing is often based on the nitrate level or by adding the daily dose in one dose. A created bacterial bloom is often said to be innocent; it is NOT! ref: MB CMF de Haes 2018

Why nitrate can build up very slowly in a well-lit aquarium and is not used up by photo-autotrophs?
To remove the same nitrate which for some reason can not be transformed into photo-autotrophic growth some add carbohydrates, vodka, vinegar. Fast-growing r-strategists do not make use of nitrate, they use ammonium by which less nitrate is produced. They also will steal most essential building materials normally used by slower-growing organisms such as corals. Fast exponential growth is always followed by exponential dead.

Chancing the C/N ratio can be done by changing the protein content of the feed. If it is the intention to produce more bacteria to feed filter-feeders, this is the way to go. see biofloc.

Using biofilters makes active aquarium management possible, most biological processes are made manageable, DOC is kept as low as possible, and inorganic nutrient levels easily controlled and balanced.
 

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Carbon dosing has always been promoted for removing safely stored nitrogen. The cure may be worse than the disease.

I used it for other reasons and saw no detriments.

You can hypothesize detriments, but in reality, the thousands of reefers dosing organic carbon are not reporting them.

Since we do not even seem to be able to agree on what words mean, let's put all the fancy words aside, and I'll just ask for you to state, in layman's terms, what exactly you claim is going to show up as an observable problem in a reef tank dosing vinegar?

Remember, I've done it. I know what happens. :)
 

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Interesting notion: deliberately shifting from heterotrophic dominated nitrogen consumption to chemoautotrophic. What sort of “crowbar” would you need to perform the shift?
Focus on older techniques of removal e.g. socks, skimmers, water changes, lower lighting if possible and use high protein frozen foods. Maybe use a cryptic refugium as well to help remove excess DOC?? There is also that reverse undergravel filter idea out there. I assume that would keep oxygenation up throughout the bed.
 
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I used it for other reasons and saw no detriments.

You can hypothesize detriments, but in reality, the thousands of reefers dosing organic carbon are not reporting them.

Since we do not even seem to be able to agree on what words mean, let's put all the fancy words aside, and I'll just ask for you to state, in layman's terms, what exactly you claim is going to show up as an observable problem in a reef tank dosing vinegar?

Remember, I've done it. I know what happens. :)
What other reasons may be worth the risks created by drastically changing the C/N ratio in an established marine system supporting corals?

What is happening? All my parameters are good and within limits!!!!

My hypotheses are based on proper research and facts!

The thousands of reefers who may have had problems during or after dosing not knowing what was happening as they were not informed correctly, carbon dosing was always promoted as being reef safe and users could not make the link to carbon dosing. Carbon dosing is still promoted as reef safe without warnings.
The effects and side effects of carbon dosing are well understood, investigated, and reported. Most important for those who are carbon dosing is building it off very slowly as the autotrophic carrying capacity may have been removed or reduced drastically. The system must have the time to recondition to a stable autotrophic based carrying-capacity which takes time, weeks. If the bioload has increased during the period of dosing the balance may never again be found without removing bio-load. Suddenly stopping dosing organic carbon may cause what is called "the new tank syndrome" and wipe out the system in a few week's time or a month later.
Obviously, You did not do your homework as followers were never warned of possible side effects which have been shown to happen and have been recognized and reported decades ago. Carbon dosing is used in commercial zero-emission marine aquaculture systems, ZMAS, for decades and was subject to a lot of research. It has no secrets. Carbon dosing based on the nitrate level is NOT reef safe! Certainly when using carbohydrates, sugar, vodka, vinegar. It may kill corals!!! It may end up losing the livestock if the carrying capacity is mainly based on heterotrophic growth and for some reason dosing is interrupted or ended!! Dosing carbon removes an existing balance between reducers and producers, oxygen consumers and producers, CO2 producers and CO2 users. Dosing carbohydrates messes up the existing balance in the coral holobiont which means another balance has to be found. In many cases that balance is not found again and corals bleach after a period of time.

Anyway, if nitrate is building up, the problem is not solved by exporting it as nothing is done to correct the source of the problem. Slowly increasing nutrient levels in a well-lit aquarium are only the messengers, killing the messengers does not win the war.
 

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My hypotheses are based on proper research and facts!

OK, your opinions are based on your interpretations of reports you have read. My opinion is based on actually using it and observing the effects over many years at many different doses.

I asked you to state what problems I should have encountered in simple terms.

Your response was:

"The effects and side effects of carbon dosing are well understood, investigated, and reported. Most important for those who are carbon dosing is building it off very slowly as the autotrophic carrying capacity may have been removed or reduced drastically. The system must have the time to recondition to a stable autotrophic based carrying-capacity which takes time, weeks. If the bioload has increased during the period of dosing the balance may never again be found without removing bio-load. Suddenly stopping dosing organic carbon may cause what is called "the new tank syndrome" and wipe out the system in a few week's time or a month later."


It was understandable up to the claim that it was well understood and reported, Then it went off the rails with things like "autotroph carrying capacity" "balance may never again be found" etc..

Seriously?

What problem did I experience?

Nitrate was never too low. My rare tests suggested about 10 ppm, though I rarely tested.

Phosphate was never too low (triton reported it to be 0.033 ppm) In fact, I grew macroalgae and used GFO and still had plenty of phosphate.

Lots of autotrophs in my tank thrived. macroalgae, large host anemones, hard corals, soft corals,

Perhaps what you really should be saying is that organic carbon dosing, like all husbandry techniques, should be done in an appropriate way for the aquarium involved to not drive nutrients too high or too low.
 

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OK, your opinions are based on your interpretations of reports you have read. My opinion is based on actually using it and observing the effects over many years at many different doses.

I asked you to state what problems I should have encountered in simple terms.

Your response was:

"The effects and side effects of carbon dosing are well understood, investigated, and reported. Most important for those who are carbon dosing is building it off very slowly as the autotrophic carrying capacity may have been removed or reduced drastically. The system must have the time to recondition to a stable autotrophic based carrying-capacity which takes time, weeks. If the bioload has increased during the period of dosing the balance may never again be found without removing bio-load. Suddenly stopping dosing organic carbon may cause what is called "the new tank syndrome" and wipe out the system in a few week's time or a month later."


It was understandable up to the claim that it was well understood and reported, Then it went off the rails with things like "autotroph carrying capacity" "balance may never again be found" etc..

Seriously?

What problem did I experience?

Nitrate was never too low. My rare tests suggested about 10 ppm, though I rarely tested.

Phosphate was never too low (triton reported it to be 0.033 ppm) In fact, I grew macroalgae and used GFO and still had plenty of phosphate.

Lots of autotrophs in my tank thrived. macroalgae, large host anemones, hard corals, soft corals,

Perhaps what you really should be saying is that organic carbon dosing, like all husbandry techniques, should be done in an appropriate way for the aquarium involved to not drive nutrients too high or too low.
I seem to understand (maybe) Belgian Anthias’ concerns though I might just be overwhelmed by the information.

The narrative seems to be that dosing organic carbon shifts the microbiome to being more heterotrophic and less chemoautotrophic. This in turn renders two risks. One is altered coral associated bacteria (coral can become sick) and the other is a diminished chemoautotrophic bacteria population (the risk is having nitrification shift from a system that works by itself versus one that is actively managed by carbon dosing, i.e., passive control is inherently safer than active control).

@AquaBiomics should be able to comment on how the aquarium microbiome is shifted with carbon dosing and whether there is a clear cut risk of increased number of potentially bad actors or a large decline in chemoautotrophs. Maybe it’s more complicated than this but it would be a nice starting point.

I think that I will discuss with @taricha and @flampton about deliberately trying to make a minimal or zero chemoautotrophic system, Belgian Anthias worse case scenario, and determine what kind of hell hole it would be for coral.
 

Nano sapiens

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I seem to understand (maybe) Belgian Anthias’ concerns though I might just be overwhelmed by the information.

The narrative seems to be that dosing organic carbon shifts the microbiome to being more heterotrophic and less chemoautotrophic. This in turn renders two risks. One is altered coral associated bacteria (coral can become sick) and the other is a diminished chemoautotrophic bacteria population (the risk is having nitrification shift from a system that works by itself versus one that is actively managed by carbon dosing, i.e., passive control is inherently safer than active control).

@AquaBiomics should be able to comment on how the aquarium microbiome is shifted with carbon dosing and whether there is a clear cut risk of increased number of potentially bad actors or a large decline in chemoautotrophs. Maybe it’s more complicated than this but it would be a nice starting point.

I think that I will discuss with @taricha and @flampton about deliberately trying to make a minimal or zero chemoautotrophic system, Belgian Anthias worse case scenario, and determine what kind of hell hole it would be for coral.

From what I have read from Rohwer and others, when excess DOC is rapidly delivered to the coral the current prevailing theory is that the coral's own resident bacterial population overpopulate and this starves the coral of oxygen.

Ken Feldman found that in a healthy 'unfiltered' aquaria, the TOC was up to 5x higher than in the open ocean. One can assume that the organic carbon buildup was gradual in this mature system and my takeaway is that the coral's holobiont can adapt and adjust to higher than typical levels of TOC as long as the increase is not rapid. *So when the established carbon dosing protocol is followed*, the desired results can be obtained with no apparent harm to the coral. Conversely, do your own thing and all hell might break loose :)

For those who haven't read Ken's relevant articles on this topic (or want a refresher):

https://reefs.com/magazine/bacteria...ing-and-granular-activated-carbon-filtration/

https://reefs.com/magazine/total-organic-carbon-toc-and-the-reef-aquarium-an-initial-survey-part-i/

https://reefs.com/magazine/total-organic-carbon-toc-and-the-reef-aquarium-an-initial-survey-part-ii/
 
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