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

Paul B

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Both of those reasons.
Because you doubt that there's ammonia in the sand bed to begin with, or you think the flow up through the gravel is insufficient, or some other reason?
 
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Paul B

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Both of those reasons. But there will be no ammonia in a tank with a reverse UG filter to start with with all the bacteria that can live in there compared to a stagnant sand bed.
 
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taricha

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As I was reading through this thread I thought about @Paul B and his reverse undergravel filter. Perhaps running an undergravel filter in reverse pushes the ammonia out of the sandbed and into the water column, making it available to the corals.

doing this would probably increase the nitrification of the sandbed - that is, it'll process more ammonia in the sand, because the bulk of the system's ammonia is released from gills into the water and not from decomposing in the sandbed. So a reverse undergravel filter will push more ammonia in well-aerated water through the sand making it a very good situation for nitrifiers. This is why Flampton mentioned it earlier as a possible way to force a shift to nitrification and away from heterotrophs if that's what somebody's goal was. (He wasn't advocating it.)
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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taricha

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This is one of those times where the data doesn't seem to support the realities. Basically something seems off. A small 20 gallon low light, minimal algae system with 12 sloppy heterotrophs suggests highly efficient nitrification. I'm not sure two small rocks would cut it so did it have a filter? e.g. a cascading HOB? If so that may be where the nitrifiers are at.

Wanted to revisit this and my possible explanations below, so I went back to check on this tank at the LFS and inspect it more closely.
yeah, I think there are a couple of likely options.
1 - there was a HOB with a filter pad, which could be doing the bulk of the nitrification
2 - maybe the sand was new, and that's why it was so white. Other tanks had brown film or red cyano. I'll peek back in on the tank in a week.
3 - (along the lines of 2) maybe it's not keeping up with the bioload (kicking myself for not testing the water in the bag from the LFS to look for NH3+4, NO2, NO3.) and the shop is using water changes, prime etc to deal with it.
4 - Or like you say, maybe the sand can nitrify way more than what my protocol is showing.

regarding 2&3 the sand was essentially unchanged in appearance, same tiny diatom dusting in a small patch on the sand. No big spread that might indicate it was a new sandbed not yet keeping up with the bioload.

And when I peeked closer behind the curtain, each ~20 gal was being run through a separate one of these big boys
20210411_152215.jpg


which is to say, I found the nitrification. :)
(and I no longer think it's weird that it wasn't in the sand)
 
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flampton

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Wanted to revisit this and my possible explanations below, so I went back to check on this tank at the LFS and inspect it more closely.


regarding 2&3 the sand was essentially unchanged in appearance, same tiny diatom dusting in a small patch on the sand. No big spread that might indicate it was a new sandbed not yet keeping up with the bioload.

And when I peeked closer behind the curtain, each ~20 gal was being run through a separate one of these big boys
20210411_152215.jpg


which is to say, I found the nitrification. :)
(and I no longer think it's weird that it wasn't in the sand)

Well yup case closed
 

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It would be great if Mr Lou or Mr Balling or some one from TMC could join this conversation & really expand on there carbon dosing products & why they are different.
Well, here I am, a little late, I have to admit, but I thought this could be an interesting thread. ;)

Probably poly(hydroxybutyrate) is that so called seaweed polymer that Mr Ekus was referring to.
No, it is not. To be totally correct there is some overlap between Tropic Marin Reef Actif and NP-Bacto-Pellets, but there are also big differences although we tried to address diverse and similar organisms with both products and have tried to include some important similarities.

NP-Bacto-Pellets contain no algal biopolymers, but we included other biopolymers than the bacterial biopolymer PHA/PHB into the pellets to maybe feed heterotroph microbes that form DHA, an important marine long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acid which is meant to be necessary for the normal development of some marine organisms, fish fry amongst others.

The main seaweed polymer that folks use (like as a food thickener in milk shakes) is the protein alginate. It's already in many fish foods. I've not heard of folks making biopellets from it, but they might.
I am sorry but I have to say alginate is not a protein. In fact alginate is one of the marine biopolymers included in Reef Actif but only to a small proportion. Alginate in not a protein and it does not contain nitrogen and I think it is not an ingredient of normal fish feeds. Alginate is a polysaccharide with charged groups that can bind calcium and other metals and give it quite unique properties.

While those species of bacteria obviously have the correct enzymes to break it down, they are not the only ones. Many species can break down poly(hydroxybutyrate) and use it for their own purposes, presumably because they have evolved to naturally find it in their environment after other bacteria that made it have died.
I totally agree, PHA/PHB are forms of organic carbon that, like other organic carbon compounds, contain some usable energy that can be used by different bacteria and even some fungi.

I've never seen it reported that corals can use PHB, and I'd be surprised if they could since it is insoluble and is generally degraded by biofilms of bacteria that coat the surface and release enzymes to break it down.
Who knows. I think the usual image of corals is still a bit under-complex. The holobiont also consists of bacteria and other microorganisms, and I think it still has to be tested whether some can make use of PHAs. It would be a nice trial to keep corals in a sterile tank with sterile water and feed it with PHA. Will the PHA be degraded?:)

I think the discussion focusses too much on nitrogen and nitrogen compounds as nutrients. Please don't forget that other nutrients like phosphate and trace elements may be absolute game changers. It may depend from the other nutrients whether ammonium can be fully converted into growth of some organisms or whether it can just be oxidized to nitrate to make use of its energy in chemolithoautotrophic metabolism.

Growth for sure will be more dependent from the other nutrients to form biomass than oxidation of ammonium or respiration of nitrate does. If you want to determine how much ammonia/ammonium is converted into growth of biomass the role of phosphate, trace elements and carbon for growth cannot be ignored.

This already starts with the feeding of the fish. The conversion of protein to growth of the fish already depends from fats and essential fatty acids. If the fish can fulfill its energy needs from fats instead of proteins it will excrete less ammonium.

When supplying trace elements (vs. no trace elements supply in closed systems) you may notice that you have less buildup of phosphate and nitrate in the water. Conversion to more growth (i. e. of corals) seems to lower nutrient concentrations in water until again some macro or micro nutrient is growth limiting.

Similar with light, more light of appropiate composition, more coral and algal growth, less nutrients, less nitrification.

So contrasting results may not be so hard to explain as it seems at the first glimpse, it is just a bit ... complex. ;)
 
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taricha

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Personally, I prefer that ammonia oxidation rate is 2ppm a day. And that ammonia is oxidized completely to nitrate each day. So to me, it is not cycled. I would dose 2ppm each time ammonia and nitrite drops to 0, until ammonia and nitrite reads 0 within 24 hours of dosing 2ppm ammonia.
Pulling your quote from another thread, sorry!

So Azedenkae, what happens to these "super-cycled" systems that have ~10x the nitrification rate of "minimally cycled" systems when the lights come on and the livestock goes in?
Any observations on if they progress differently? do ugly phases appear in the same way, or lesser and shorter? Do corals seem to need more feeding?
Or are they basically like other systems but with more peace of mind?
 

Azedenkae

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Pulling your quote from another thread, sorry!

So Azedenkae, what happens to these "super-cycled" systems that have ~10x the nitrification rate of "minimally cycled" systems when the lights come on and the livestock goes in?
Any observations on if they progress differently? do ugly phases appear in the same way, or lesser and shorter? Do corals seem to need more feeding?
Or are they basically like other systems but with more peace of mind?
It is essentially like other systems but with more peace of mind when it comes to ammonia and nitrite. Presuming the 2ppm ammonia is the amount expected to be produced by a fully stocked tank each day, then once the tank is cycled this way, one can just fully stock the tank from the get go.

It also has the added benefit of ensuring you know for certain you have enough rock, sand, biomedia, etc. to handle the expected stock of the tank. Not the biggest deal, but it can be relevant sometimes.

So how robust is the tank then? My current main tank I 'cycled' in 2 weeks, 'cycled' in quotation marks because ammonia concentration was reduced from 2ppm to 0 within 24 hours, but nitrite still was not going down as fast. Normally I would wait (as you probably know from reading my posts), but my wife was impatient and I was like, eh, worse comes to worse I'll just do a water changes if nitrite ever reaches like 100ppm or whatever lol.

Anyways, stocked the tank, everything went well until an unfortunate circumstance where my thermometer mis-read water temperature and I cranked the heater up too high, and half my live stock died. Unfortunately I found out too late and I had organic matter decomposing all over the place. Under rocks, in the back chamber, everywhere. Took what I can out , measured ammonia to be 0.25 and nitrite to be 5+ppm and stayed around there for a few days as I could not quite remove all of the dead matter so there was constant decomposition. But yeah, was not too worried as nitrite is non-toxic at that levels of course, and ammonia did not climb above 0.25ppm. Decomposition continued to occur for two weeks or so though lessened with each day, ammonia decreased to actually be zero after a few days when nitrite was also on a steep decline. I did validate my results by measuring ammonia concentrations of fresh water, freshly mixed saltwater, and then added ammonium chloride to the saltwater to get 2ppm and yeah, everything measured as they should.

I guess beyond being able to handle 2ppm, this method also has the added benefit of if something major happened, the ammonia oxidizers could already handle 2ppm a day and could reproduce quickly enough to handle the extra ammonia produced. I presume if you have ammonia oxidizers only able to handle 0.2ppm a day and then something happened, gonna be a lot more ammonia that can't be handled for a while given the ammonia oxidizer's relatively slow doubling rate.

Side note, it is also why I may dose 2ppm ammonia and make sure it all goes away within 24 hours multiple days in a row, just to make sure it is not due to mis-readings or some weird thing going on. I want to be absolutely sure my aquarium can at least handle ammonia successfully. I currently have issues with a second tank I am cycling. It was able to handle 8ppm ammonia over two days when I added FritzZyme, but then the capacity slowed down greatly after a few days to being non-existent. The tank is a bit of an experiment - it had nothing except 72 MarinePure gems at the bottom of the tank. So far I think I have figured it out - nitrification can be inhibited by light, and given that the gems are relatively small, light probably penetrates into the nooks and crannies better. I have moved 56 of the gems to the filtration chamber itself, and also re-dosed Fritz and it can now handle 4ppm ammonia a day again. I am continuing to dose ammonia and monitor the results, to see if it may be an issue with the Fritz or if indeed an issue with the light (because the filtration chamber is a lot darker, only the top layer receives some light). I have yet to actually report on this because the results are still yet to be inconclusive. I figured however it might be of interest and relevance here and now. Just to clarify though, this is doubtful to be the issue in most tanks, because 1. biomedia is generally left in the filtration chamber, and 2. live rock and stuff is sufficiently large enough that the bulk of the volume is probably truly dark. Could just be an issue with MarinePure gems and how small they are and that they are the only biomedia in this case.
 

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Regarding bare bottom vs. sandbed again phosphate plays a role. Coral sand is full of phosphate that slowly dissolves and increases phosphate concentration in the water, just as life rock does. Also the calcarous material "buffers" the phosphate concentration. It takes up phosphate when concentration in water is high and releases phosphate when phosphate concentration in the water drops.

Sand has a large surface anyways, but the porous coral sand even more so. These two facts of a "mild" and quite continuous phosphate supply and the phosphate buffering makes sandbed tanks much more stable and easier to cycle than bare bottom tanks. Without sand bed and life rock most tanks suffer phosphate deficiency in the initial phase which inhibits good cycling and just as much good coral growth.

Again, in my opinion phosphate is the most underestimated and underrated nutrient in reef tanks.
 
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taricha

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It was able to handle 8ppm ammonia over two days when I added FritzZyme, but then the capacity slowed down greatly after a few days to being non-existent. The tank is a bit of an experiment - it had nothing except 72 MarinePure gems at the bottom of the tank. So far I think I have figured it out - nitrification can be inhibited by light, and given that the gems are relatively small, light probably penetrates into the nooks and crannies better.

Regarding bare bottom vs. sandbed again phosphate plays a role. Coral sand is full of phosphate that slowly dissolves and increases phosphate concentration in the water, just as life rock does. Also the calcarous material "buffers" the phosphate concentration. It takes up phosphate when concentration in water is high and releases phosphate when phosphate concentration in the water drops.

Sand has a large surface anyways, but the porous coral sand even more so. These two facts of a "mild" and quite continuous phosphate supply and the phosphate buffering makes sandbed tanks much more stable and easier to cycle than bare bottom tanks. Without sand bed and life rock most tanks suffer phosphate deficiency in the initial phase which inhibits good cycling and just as much good coral growth.

I was going to suggest PO4 here as well, actually. @Dan_P found that AOB and NOB (to varying degrees) were hampered by undetectable PO4.

It doesn't seem widely known or at least not often discussed, but Brightwell says it right on their product
"DO NOT USE PHOSPHATE REMOVERS, FILTER RESINS, GFO or other non-biological filtration media until the aquarium is over 30 days old and then you register phosphates on your test kit over .04 PPM. If you do, you will lengthen the cycle. Bacteria require some phosphate to multiply rapidly!"

Yet, I've never read a cycling guide that said to measure PO4 (probably because in almost all cases, aragonite sand or ghost feeding would handle this.)
 

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@Azedenkae

I disagree with your cycling approach. For two years we’ve been amassing hundreds of work threads linkable right now that show cycles complete on their due dates on the bottles used, no extra purchases needed, nitrite not factored, solidarity and consistency and now with your recent press of posts telling everyone we must process 2 ppm on api, and get hard zero on nitrite, never allowing for misreads or the common test issues new keepers have, it’s setting them back into doubt and redundant retail purchases. we have posters waiting for your clearance weeks and weeks after cycling would be completed.

cycle completed means a safe start date, for any common bioload someone wants to add. the matter was resolved long ago, its not like you are showing up to collections of failed cycles needing a reverse mechanism to save them from loss





your training is producing less able and more retail-dependent new reefers
nobody should be told after waiting sixty days in reef water that they may be uncycled.

they’re being advised days after the dates on the bottle bac their tank isn’t ready, but Dr Reefs 90 page work thread shows they complete on time.



if you’d inform your new cyclers on the risk of fish disease, and put the doubts into that issue it’d be more fitting with what we can see new reefers enduring in their tanks.




cycles are easy, don’t stall, and don’t fail to complete. What fails is fish disease protocols because we are aiming these new reefers away from the real concern and into false concerns regarding nh3 control or nitrite control.
 
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taricha

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I disagree with your cycling approach. For two years we’ve been amassing hundreds of work threads linkable right now that show cycles complete on their due dates on the bottles used, no extra purchases needed, nitrite not factored, solidarity and consistency and now with your recent press of posts telling everyone we must process 2 ppm on api, and get hard zero on nitrite, never allowing for misreads or the common test issues new keepers have, it’s setting them back into doubt and redundant retail purchases. we have posters waiting for your clearance weeks and weeks after cycling would be completed.

Tiny quibble brandon,
I got two different bottles (purchased separately over a couple of months) of One and Only that didn't nitrify anything (<0.1 ammonia) over a time frame of a week, one was in my data in the first post of this thread. And I can measure quite accurately. If a bottle got frozen at any point in transit, then it will not nitrify - regardless of the dates on the bottle or the adherence to instructions.
Biospira is very fast, yet some people run into bottles of it that do nothing. Dud bottles are real, I've gotten two of them.

You are correct of course that after a bottle (even if it's a dud), a food source, lights go on, and something photosynthetic goes in, a system can easily handle the ammonia input of the starter fish within 10-14 days. To be clear this is really not an issue of ammonia control for fish safety.

I am making the distinction between eating ammonia (everything) and true nitrification of ammonia to NO2 / NO3 (nitrifiers), which I'm finding out that there are a million reasons why tanks may have minimal actual Nitrification, but still plenty of ammonia consumption. Some people use "starter" bacteria bottles that aren't even true chemoautotroph nitrifiers.

Yet, there are a few people around that want to see their system do 2 or 3 ppm of ammonia nitrification in under 24 hours - which means they are growing a nitrifier population that is ~10x larger than most systems. I'd love to know what happens to those systems when lights and livestock go in place. Is it anything different than the rest of the systems in the hobby?
 
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brandon429

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I sure do agree on the duds as Dr Reef was sent bottles of bac to test by the manufacturers themselves in a few cases and he found some duds. we try to account for that by asking the cyclers to demo any movement down from an initial set point as proof but not to skip ammonia testing altogether unless they want another fun cycling hack- using a dose from two totally different cycling brands and the statistics alone from that will allow for a testless cycle. We think it’s stat not possible to randomly select a Dr Tim’s and then a biospira and both bottles be dead for the same interval

or by selecting a bottle of Fritz refrigerated and then a Dr Tims...

this was the non 2 ppm change we used to cycle so many reefs I can’t count them nowadays. Once we find any movement down in 24 hours that’s our new accepted can-reef can- start moment:

Summary by MSteven1

2 month old tank, running fallow, no additives. Ammonia, nitrite, nitrate read zero.

EE8EED8A-3EB6-4ADA-B789-DFC3582A3368.jpeg


Dose of 1 ml ammonium hydroxide

4C7EF682-6054-41F5-9D20-C8DEAA50F688.jpeg




24 hours later.
80E52089-3A83-4BE6-9614-FF2B449E6984.jpeg


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that right there is the first unassisted marine cycle report I’ve ever seen by MSteven1 in reefing (water and wait only, no bac dosed no feeding)

if we used 2 ppm it may not have cleared as fast (if Mother Nature can’t pack in nitrifiers in sixty days to the degree directly dosing ten million of them can, thats ok, his reef will carry any bioload he adds due to surface area and common starting dilutions)


Perhaps ambient room light gets in and helps the cheat with non bac biomass uptake directly...either way he can start. and we're finding this predictability upscales to anyone showing bac activity even if slight like above, not a hard bring down from solid green.

99% of cyclers are providing light though so if algae or biomass other than bac are doing the job it is consistent like clockwork, they provide a consistent start date using that easy motion test in my opinion.


I’d say the majority of reefers presenting stalls are past ten days wait, some are at a month and after all the redundant feeding they certainly have a biofilter if we change out the wastewater and assess surfaces, jacks link below


this represents a common dr Tim’s stall then fix without buying new bottle bac. Wastewater seemed stalled, but clean water could reef immediately
 
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brandon429

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Not by Dan or T though and Dr Reef, he did his whole 90 pages of proofs on api and then at the very end seneye backed it pretty well

chemists can wield the test like Thor’s hammer but it is completely fair to say that api ammonia testing by the masses is a bottle bac sellers favorite partner
 
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taricha

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if we used 2 ppm it may not have cleared as fast (if Mother Nature can’t pack in nitrifiers in sixty days to the degree directly dosing ten million of them can, thats ok, his reef will carry any bioload he adds due to surface area and common starting dilutions)


Perhaps ambient room light gets in and helps the cheat...either way he can start.
Too bad for my curiosity, he didn't post the NO2/NO3 test showing whether it created a couple of ppm NO2/NO3 (nitrification) or zero (consumption) or something in between. :p
But of course you are right the fish don't care.
 

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This type of work makes me wonder truly how far off generalized cycling charts were when they were written.

I think their ammonia trending is 100% replicated in digital testing of todays nh3 levels post cycle.

but the date of compliance, that initial ammonia drop that's yet to be discovered in truly unassisted cycle runs. standard cycling chart calls it long about day 10-14

above that doesn't mean his cycle wasn't minimal-ammonia ready in 30 days, 60 just happened to be the test interval attempted. curious how fast It would be and agreed for the big picture, track out the nitrite conversion as well. we could remake marine-specific charts with that data



I'd have lost a bet. I would have said 90 days to 6 mos required for totally unassisted salwater inoc.

but those shifting clades of bac, and algae and other biomass you're highlighting, are collectively quick bugs in my opinion. mo nature is awesome
 

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Tiny quibble brandon,
I got two different bottles (purchased separately over a couple of months) of One and Only that didn't nitrify anything (<0.1 ammonia) over a time frame of a week, one was in my data in the first post of this thread. And I can measure quite accurately. If a bottle got frozen at any point in transit, then it will not nitrify - regardless of the dates on the bottle or the adherence to instructions.
Biospira is very fast, yet some people run into bottles of it that do nothing. Dud bottles are real, I've gotten two of them.

You are correct of course that after a bottle (even if it's a dud), a food source, lights go on, and something photosynthetic goes in, a system can easily handle the ammonia input of the starter fish within 10-14 days. To be clear this is really not an issue of ammonia control for fish safety.

I am making the distinction between eating ammonia (everything) and true nitrification of ammonia to NO2 / NO3 (nitrifiers), which I'm finding out that there are a million reasons why tanks may have minimal actual Nitrification, but still plenty of ammonia consumption. Some people use "starter" bacteria bottles that aren't even true chemoautotroph nitrifiers.

Yet, there are a few people around that want to see their system do 2 or 3 ppm of ammonia nitrification in under 24 hours - which means they are growing a nitrifier population that is ~10x larger than most systems. I'd love to know what happens to those systems when lights and livestock go in place. Is it anything different than the rest of the systems in the hobby?
I tested a new bottle of One and Only and it was dead on arrival, but the Biospira and Turbostart 900 received at the same time soaked up ammonia rapidly. Was One and Only abused during delivery in cold weather but the other two were not?
 
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