THE CHEMICAL INTERACTION BETWEEN SPECIES AS A HYPOTHESIS FOR A MATURE TANK

Beuchat

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Algae, unavoidable companions.

Algae are undoubtedly one of the inhabitants of a reef tank that cause the biggest headaches to hobbyists. In a world idealized by aesthetics, we might wish that these living beings were out of our system, however, this wish makes no biological and ecological sense. Algae are part of the food web of any aquarium, actively participating in the recycling of nutrients and contributing to the maintenance of adequate levels of nitrate, phosphate and CO2 in the water. "Aseptic" aquariums cannot exist.

So far so good, however, it is well known that algae, too often, and especially in the first months of operation of a tank, tend to generate pests, spreading over all available surfaces and harming corals and other invertebrates. A pest occurs when one of the algae specie takes advantage of its competitors (which can be other algae, protists or bacteria, among others) and is able to colonize quickly and unstoppably all the available space. The consequences are bad, not only from an ecological but also from an aesthetic point of view.

Low nutrients, a guarantee of algae absence?

Algae are true survivors in their ecological niche. This implies they can thrive with very little: little light, little nitrate, little phosphate, little CO2, and additionally trace elements, which are almost always available in the necessary concentrations (which are extraordinarily low). We hobbyists have a strong tendency to think that maintaining low levels of inorganic nutrients equates to being less likely to have algae infestations, however, there are frequent and numerous evidence that there is no such relationship, at least in a strictly cause-effect way.

In my experience and that of many other hobbyists, keeping nitrate and phosphate concentrations at permanently low levels (e.g., below 0.06 ppm for phosphate and 3 ppm for nitrate) has implied greater long-term persistence of cyanobacteria, dinoflagellates, and filamentous algae. The reality is that, once bloom is initiated, nutrient reduction is absolutely useless to stop propagation, especially during the initial exponential reproduction phase, which can last for several weeks.


Increase nutrients to favor competition.

In cases where cyanobacteria, dinoflagellates, diatoms and some hair algae pests are started, if inorganic nutrients are too low, the algae that can live in those conditions (which are the majority) will not be subject to competition from other organisms, which thrive in water with higher nutrient concentrations. For example, it is well known that many species of coraline algae spread better when nitrate concentration is high (not the case with high phosphate concentration, because it inhibits the precipitation of calcium carbonate).

The strategy of increasing nitrate and phosphate levels to combat algae pests does not work in the short term, but it does work in the long term and especially as a preventive measure. Once the pest is established, mechanical actions are clearly a good option, e.g., pruning, siphoning or even carefully removing the rocks from the tank and pouring a hydrogen peroxide solution over them.

The concept of tank maturity

The disappearance of algae pests is related to the concept of "mature and stable aquarium". Since I started in the hobby more than 25 years ago, I have heard these two terms all the time, and have always wondered what they really mean. Tank maturity and stability is an emerging quality that has very complex chemical, biological and ecological underpinnings. We can say that aquarium stability is closely related to the stability of the typical parameters that we usually measure, i.e.: concentrations of calcium, magnesium, alkalinity, nitrate, phosphate, potassium, trace elements, etc., but there is something that goes beyond such parameter stability and has a lot to do with the interspecific competition between species of microorganisms and macroscopic organisms that inhabit the aquarium.

When we speak of these "emergent" qualities it is convenient to emphasize that they are based on innumerable chemical and biochemical processes that sustain the metabolism of the organisms that are part of the microcosm. There is absorption and release of nutrients into the water, birth, growth, reproduction, predation and death. Algae, protists and bacteria constitute the first levels of the trophic web, taking care of the recycling of organic and inorganic nutrients in the water column, all of them interacting with each other and with the environment where they live (as an ecosystem itself).

In reference to the concept of maturity I want to propose a hypothesis, which by definition is something that must be demonstrated to be taken as true. The intention of this article is to generate a debate about it. The hypothesis can be expressed as a series of "requirements" for the attainment of the state of maturity, namely:

- Stability of chemical parameters, as mentioned.

- Stability in light intensity and spectrum.

- Diversity of microorganisms: phytoplankton, zooplankton (copepods, for example), autotrophic and heterotrophic bacteria. Diversity is one of the consequences of
stability, as occurs in coral reefs.

- Sufficient" concentrations of nitrate and phosphate in the water so that all species have "food" so that none of them can take advantage due to their metabolism
adapted to "extreme" situations, for example, cyanobacteria that are able to take advantage of the nitrogen dissolved in the water, without the need to directly assimilate
ammonia.

- Real competition between all aquarium organisms, especially microorganisms: bacteria, phytoplankton and zooplankton. This competition could be summarized in several
types:


o Competition for space. This is probably one of the most relevant. Once a surface (live rock, substrate, etc.) is colonized by one species, it becomes more difficult
for another to occupy that spot (therefore newly set up aquariums are so prone to algae pests).

o Competition for inorganic nutrients. The availability of ammonia, nitrate, phosphate, CO2 and trace elements in the water is variable and depends on
consumption and release by organisms. For example, a functional heterotrophic bacterial biofilm will remove nitrate and phosphate on its surface, made
more difficult for algae to assimilate.

o Grazing and predation. Algae are subjected to grazing by zooplankton, for example, copepods feeding on dinoflagellates. Surgeonfish grazing at diatoms and
hair algae on the rocks or tank walls limit their growth.

o Chemical interaction between organisms. I will elaborate on this point in more detail in the next paragraph for clarity. I am convinced that it is the most
relevant factor of them all.


Chemical interaction between tank inhabitants.

The hypothesis that I present in this article is that the chemical interaction between micro and macro-organisms that inhabit the aquarium has a great relevance in the robustness of a tank against destabilizing events that are potentially triggering algal pests. I will now present some evidence that, in my opinion, can justify this hypothesis:

- A tank maintained with a very small population of corals and other invertebrates (relative to the net water volume) is usually much more prone to permanent algae pests.

- Water changes make cyanobacteria and dinoflagellate infestations worse, and I believe this is due to two factors primarily:

o Nutrient dilution.

o Dilution of allelopathy compounds that inhibit the growth of dinoflagellates and cyanobacteria. It is striking the fact that a bloom of dinos, cyano and even
hair algae, are initiated in a "synchronized" way at different spots of the tank, at exactly at the same time. This suggests the existence of "chemical signals" or, at
least, significant changes in the water concentration of certain inhibitory compounds released by competing species. It is relatively easy to find scientific papers
that support this evidence.

- Organic carbon dosing is very effective in controlling dinoflagellates such as Ostreopsis, Prorocentrum and Amphidinium, provided that nitrate and phosphate are not allowed
to drop to undetectable values during treatment. Heterotrophic bacteria generate natural algaecide compounds that inhibit dinoflagellate growth.

- The use of "miracle" products such as commercial chemical algaecides (e.g., heavy metals), can eradicate the pest, but often make a big hole in the food web, so that another
invasive species is able to occupy the available niche after the death of the previous one. In this way, pests follow one after another in the tank: cyanobacteria,
dinoflagellates,filamentous, etc.

Conclusion for discussion.

The hypothesis presented is that the chemical interaction between the organisms that inhabit a reef tank is probably the most important factor that allows the ecosystem to "self-regulate" its algae populations, so that the probability of a single species taking advantage of the others is quite low. This would therefore be the most determining factor in terms of the robustness of an aquarium. Almost all algae species are desired. What is undesired by the hobbyist is a pest of any one of them. I am convinced that this chemical interaction plays a decisive factor in determining the concept of "mature aquarium". One question would be: What percentage of the total "maturity" of the tank could be attributed to this factor if any?
 
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Dan_P

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WOW! Quite a hypothesis. I have only thought about this for an hour and here are my initial thoughts.

The aquarium is a messy system to understand. It consists of hundreds of species with a network of interactions numbering in the thousands or maybe millions. This makes being able to explain why an aquarium is a success an amazing feat.

The most difficult interactions to understand are the ones between the aquarist and the aquarium. These are the most difficult to observe, and I think, the least studied of all. Without a better understanding of the aquarist-aquarium interaction, aquarium performance will remain a mystery. This leads me to a tongue in cheek counter hypothesis:

An aquarium will be a success when the aquarist becomes mature and interactions with the aquarium become stable. Mature encompasses acquiring implicit and explicit knowledge about nurturing other species. Stable can be replaced with disciplined.

More later, maybe.
 

Tony Thompson

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Hi Angel, hope you are well and the weather is not to hot in Spain. I have just returned from our home in France back to the UK as it was too hot in Southern France for me and my dog Benji.

Nice article, personally rather than a "hypothesis" I would regard the main body of the article more of a basic exploration of what is commonly agreed upon.

Benthic succession has been well discussed and explored. The complex and evolving nature of our aquariums are in perpetual motion. External environmental interventions by ourselves as caretakers can have rather unexpected reactions, both temporary and long term.

Rather than attempting to control what one 'believes' are the limiting factors for these undesirables, maybe it would be more prudent to consider instead the needs of the organisms one wishes to keep. Our Corals and Fish being presumed to be the prime reasoning for keeping an aquarium.

Attempting to starve out or chemically eradicate one group of organisms could have detrimental effects on the whole ecosystem including the animals we wish to thrive.

With the advent of EDNA services within the hobby, "diversity" as a phrase, in my own opinion warrants neither a positive or negative response. In such a complex environment how can one quantify in terms of positive or negative consequence this diversity has on ones goals as a reef keeper.? and more importantly I see no solution to mastering control over that diversity.

Competition I think is a much more useful tool. Herbivores being a prime example.

With the common denominator in closed systems being limitation of real estate, pruning and manual removal could also be a positive intervention to allow competition from slower evolving organisms.

Great book by the way, I thoroughly recommend it to all levels of reefers. I attempted to get Jeremy Gay to do a piece in Reef Builders about your book, but I never seen anything develop.

Best wishes to you and yours. from the UK.
Tony Thompson, Sustainable Marine.
 

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Discoveries and scientific progress are for grabs only when you ask questions, seek answers and experiment.

It is difficult for me to accept all hypotheses presented in this article, but it motivates you to reflect on what you already know and seek more answers.

It is very unfortunate, but many, especially new reefers seek quick answers to their problems, instant solutions, instant reef, which would be mature immediately.

Sprouting of various miracle “elixirs”, “painted rock” etc. is clear example that many players in reefing industry predate on lack of knowledge by many of us.

Thank you, Angel, for this article!
 
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Hi Angel, hope you are well and the weather is not to hot in Spain. I have just returned from our home in France back to the UK as it was too hot in Southern France for me and my dog Benji.

Nice article, personally rather than a "hypothesis" I would regard the main body of the article more of a basic exploration of what is commonly agreed upon.

Benthic succession has been well discussed and explored. The complex and evolving nature of our aquariums are in perpetual motion. External environmental interventions by ourselves as caretakers can have rather unexpected reactions, both temporary and long term.

Rather than attempting to control what one 'believes' are the limiting factors for these undesirables, maybe it would be more prudent to consider instead the needs of the organisms one wishes to keep. Our Corals and Fish being presumed to be the prime reasoning for keeping an aquarium.

Attempting to starve out or chemically eradicate one group of organisms could have detrimental effects on the whole ecosystem including the animals we wish to thrive.

With the advent of EDNA services within the hobby, "diversity" as a phrase, in my own opinion warrants neither a positive or negative response. In such a complex environment how can one quantify in terms of positive or negative consequence this diversity has on ones goals as a reef keeper.? and more importantly I see no solution to mastering control over that diversity.

Competition I think is a much more useful tool. Herbivores being a prime example.

With the common denominator in closed systems being limitation of real estate, pruning and manual removal could also be a positive intervention to allow competition from slower evolving organisms.

Great book by the way, I thoroughly recommend it to all levels of reefers. I attempted to get Jeremy Gay to do a piece in Reef Builders about your book, but I never seen anything develop.

Best wishes to you and yours. from the UK.
Tony Thompson, Sustainable Marine.
Hi Tony, thanks so much for your kind words. Listening to you expert advise is always a pleasure. Best wishes to you and family
 
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Beuchat

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Discoveries and scientific progress are for grabs only when you ask questions, seek answers and experiment.

It is difficult for me to accept all hypotheses presented in this article, but it motivates you to reflect on what you already know and seek more answers.

It is very unfortunate, but many, especially new reefers seek quick answers to their problems, instant solutions, instant reef, which would be mature immediately.

Sprouting of various miracle “elixirs”, “painted rock” etc. is clear example that many players in reefing industry predate on lack of knowledge by many of us.

Thank you, Angel, for this article!
Thanks bushdoc!
 

MnFish1

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IMHO - until you define 'Mature tank' - I don't understand. If the input of nitrate into a tank - is (pretend) - 20 ppm/week, and the removal is 10 PPM/week - Nitrates will increase. Its the input is 0.1 nitrate - and the removal is 0.05 nitrate - the nitrate will increase. Lets say the nitrate input is 10 and the removal is 10 (equilibrium) - the nitrate will register 0 - but there will still be the same amount of algae. Whether a tank is mature or not?
 
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IME there is not a direct relation cause-efect between nitrate and phosphate concentration and algae quantity, as there are many other factors involved, mainly allelopathy between bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, corals and other invertebrates. A mature tank implies a previous bentic succession of bacteria, protists, phyto and zooplankton that allow the ecosystem (the tank) to self regulate its species populations through chemical interaction. After some time, no one of the species is able to get such a big advantage over the rest because its growth is inhibited by the others. This is the situation of equilibrium (or stability). Stability and diversity are causes and consecuences of each other, some type of an autocatalytic loop
 

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So, as a newbie (6 month tank) I appreciate the article and incredible amount of knowledge here. You make the statement "- Diversity of microorganisms: phytoplankton, zooplankton (copepods, for example), autotrophic and heterotrophic bacteria. Diversity is one of the consequences of stability, as occurs in coral reefs."
As I get deeper into this hobby, how would I learn or better yet start to understand how would I know if I have this diversity? I can take the test kits and measure away, do my water changes, now you throw in diversity and I am quickly reminded I know nothing....
I am going through my first cynobacteria experience (about a month now), I have been attempting to stay on top of it by cleaning it up in a casual manual method by blowing of the rocks and "scooping up what I can with a net, taking out areas of the substrate with the most concentration of them on it and so on. To be honest, I understand I am not going to go in look at the tank and it will be gone tomorrow, but am I at least headed in the right direction?
It appears that I am by "looking" at the tank and now very curious as to your point about the diversity and indicators that may shed light on the amount of it in my tank.

Anyway, I really appreciate the sharing of information and banter back and forth all throughout the site as I try to play catch-up with my tank.....
Thank you!
 
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Beuchat

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As I get deeper into this hobby, how would I learn or better yet start to understand how would I know if I have this diversity? I can take the test kits and measure away, do my water changes, now you throw in diversity and I am quickly reminded I know nothing....
Hi jK75gal, there is no need to rush or assimilate too much information at the same time. One of the best ways to get a good base of diversity of microorganisms is to use live rock for the aquarium set-up. If you have started with inert rock, your tank will behave in an unstable manner for a little while longer, but eventually everything will return to a state of equilibrium because life will make its way in and many of the beneficial microorganisms (bacteria, single-celled algae, zooplankton) will accidentally enter with the corals and other invertebrates. Also if you add live phytoplankton and zooplankton cultures, although in moderation.

To be honest, I understand I am not going to go in look at the tank and it will be gone tomorrow, but am I at least headed in the right direction?
Yes, you can siphon the cyanobacteria at the end of the day, just before lights out. I recommend that you do not replace the water. Use a sock to return the water to the sump and then discard any cyanobacteria that remain attached to the sock. Make sure that the nitrate and phosphate concentrations are not too low or zero, you can remove the skimmer cup or increase the amount of food.

It appears that I am by "looking" at the tank and now very curious as to your point about the diversity and indicators that may shed light on the amount of it in my tank.

It is not easy to quantify the degree of diversity of microorganisms in a reef aquarium. Currently there are companies that offer DNA sequencing techniques, although it would also be convenient to take different biological samples (sand, rocks, tank walls) and look at them under the microscope. In any case, as you are just starting out, it is not worth getting too complicated with these issues. Focus on the actions that with 20% of your effort will produce 80% of benefit in your tank and enjoy!

Imagen 1.png
 
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JK75gal

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Hi jK75gal, there is no need to rush or assimilate too much information at the same time. One of the best ways to get a good base of diversity of microorganisms is to use live rock for the aquarium set-up. If you have started with inert rock, your tank will behave in an unstable manner for a little while longer, but eventually everything will return to a state of equilibrium because life will make its way in and many of the beneficial microorganisms (bacteria, single-celled algae, zooplankton) will accidentally enter with the corals and other invertebrates. Also if you add live phytoplankton and zooplankton cultures, although in moderation.


Yes, you can siphon the cyanobacteria at the end of the day, just before lights out. I recommend that you do not replace the water. Use a sock to return the water to the sump and then discard any cyanobacteria that remain attached to the sock. Make sure that the nitrate and phosphate concentrations are not too low or zero, you can remove the skimmer cup or increase the amount of food.



It is not easy to quantify the degree of diversity of microorganisms in a reef aquarium. Currently there are companies that offer DNA sequencing techniques, although it would also be convenient to take different biological samples (sand, rocks, tank walls) and look at them under the microscope. In any case, as you are just starting out, it is not worth getting too complicated with these issues. Focus on the actions that with 20% of your effort will produce 80% of benefit in your tank and enjoy!

Imagen 1.png
Hi Beuchat,

Thank you so much for the information, I appreciate it!
I was not aware of the methods you mentioned due to internet information overload and will settle in on R2R for my information rather than random searches. Makes more sense as it is clear there is an amazing amount of knowledge here :)

Have a great day everyone!​

 

Lasse

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Hi @Beuchat

Very good write up. i have some comments - do not see it as critic because basically - the article is so good that I could have written it by myself :anguished-face::anguished-face::anguished-face::anguished-face::anguished-face::anguished-face::anguished-face:;)

My bolt
Algae are true survivors in their ecological niche. This implies they can thrive with very little: little light, little nitrate, little phosphate, little CO2, and additionally trace elements, which are almost always available in the necessary concentrations (which are extraordinarily low).

"little CO2" my bolt. I suspect that you mean inorganic carbon, In a reef aquarium with alkalinity of around 7 dKH - most photosynthetic organisms will not have a DIC (Dissolved Inorganic Carbon) limitation Most photosynthetic organism has the ability to in one or another way convert HCO3 into needed CO2. However some microalgae/ photosynthetic bacteria (and probably some macro too) has no/poor ability to use HCO3 as a DIC source - they need CO2. However - this seems to be very genus/species specific and include both "good" and "bad" organisms (in our point of view)

As you I´m an old reefer and therefore I have the habit to make a Google search in order to see if I remember right, if the science have change and if it is any new findings. I run into this review that change some of my standpoints and strengthen some. One interesting finding was that dinoflagellates probably as a group may tend to benefit from enhanced CO2.

Except from Endosymbiotic dinoflagellates (read zooxanthellae) the benefit of CO2 seems partly be species specific. Endosymbiotic dinoflagellates (read zooxanthellae) seems to have an ability tos switch between HCO3 and CO2 uptake depending if they was outside or inside the host (coral/clam animal)

This indicate that at least some species of problematic dinoflagellates can be defeated by lower the CO2 in the aquarium (read - rising the pH). If it works in practise - now idea at all

The reality is that, once bloom is initiated, nutrient reduction is absolutely useless to stop propagation, especially during the initial exponential reproduction phase, which can last for several weeks.
Spot on

Increase nutrients to favor competition.

In cases where cyanobacteria, dinoflagellates, diatoms and some hair algae pests are started, if inorganic nutrients are too low, the algae that can live in those conditions (which are the majority) will not be subject to competition from other organisms, which thrive in water with higher nutrient concentrations. For example, it is well known that many species of coraline algae spread better when nitrate concentration is high (not the case with high phosphate concentration, because it inhibits the precipitation of calcium carbonate).

The strategy of increasing nitrate and phosphate levels to combat algae pests does not work in the short term, but it does work in the long term and especially as a preventive measure. Once the pest is established, mechanical actions are clearly a good option, e.g., pruning, siphoning or even carefully removing the rocks from the tank and pouring a hydrogen peroxide solution over them.
According to NO3 - I have noted that a rise of NO3 up to 3 - 5 mg/L can help to defeat some cyanobacteria that form mats. The main theory I have for that is not competition for N - instead - surprisingly I think it is competition for P. The main reason for this is whats happen in the dark, below the mats. The most species that form mats is not nitrogen fixators by them self but it seems that they create a oxygen free environment below the mats that favour N fixating bacteria. Oxygen free environment above and in a sediment can release metal -bounded P if H2S is present (read formed). Its well known that NO3 levels above 2 ppm counteract H2S production in sediment and poorwater. Note - I´m aware that it exist Cyanobacteria mats even in high NO3 concentrations but my experiences says that between 70 - 80 % of the cases - rising the NO3 and stirring away the mats helps.

o Grazing and predation. Algae are subjected to grazing by zooplankton, for example, copepods feeding on dinoflagellates. Surgeonfish grazing at diatoms and
hair algae on the rocks or tank walls limit their growth.

Grazing is IMO the most important thing to have in mind. It is IMO very, very important to introduce an CUC population including crabs, snails, hermits and urchins early in the lifespan of the aquarium. Even before you can see any visible microalgae. Using different species of grazers are important too. The reason is - as you mention elsewhere - the initial exponential reproduction phase

Once the pest is established, mechanical actions are clearly a good option, e.g., pruning, siphoning or even carefully removing the rocks from the tank and pouring a hydrogen peroxide solution over them.
If everything going south and a monoculture of some species establish itself - this is a very important advise IMO. The biomass must be bringed down of several reasons. Some of them are creating space for other species, limit the toxin concentration (see below) , bringing production to the same rate as your CUC can consume it. In a benthic monoculture bloom - the amount of CUC needed is huge. Bringing down the monoculture population into the level that its production is slightly lower than the optimal grazing consumption will result in a healthy tank sooner or later. If the monoculture population is to huge - the production of toxins may affect the CUC and other animals beside other algae competitors.

o Chemical interaction between organisms. I will elaborate on this point in more detail in the next paragraph for clarity. I am convinced that it is the most relevant factor of them all.
Yes this is probably an important factor but IMO not by itself. IMO - the grazing of many specialized and also of generalists - more or less down to the bones is the most important factor that prevent that any organism get a chance to start the monoculture race. In the early growth phase - concentration of special allelopathy compounds will not be as high that it affect more than the closest surrounding of the producing organism. This compounds are - at least in the growth phase species specific and does not affect the producing organism - only other organism IMO. Everything else would be against the laws of evolution - IMO.

- Organic carbon dosing is very effective in controlling dinoflagellates such as Ostreopsis, Prorocentrum and Amphidinium, provided that nitrate and phosphate are not allowed
to drop to undetectable values during treatment. Heterotrophic bacteria generate natural algaecide compounds that inhibit dinoflagellate growth.

I´m not sure if this is in line with my experiences. At least for some Cyanobacteria or/and possible some species of dinoflagellates I get a growth on the sand if I dose to much Ethanol

- Water changes make cyanobacteria and dinoflagellate infestations worse, and I believe this is due to two factors primarily:

o Nutrient dilution.

o Dilution of allelopathy compounds that inhibit the growth of dinoflagellates and cyanobacteria. It is striking the fact that a bloom of dinos, cyano and even
hair algae, are initiated in a "synchronized" way at different spots of the tank, at exactly at the same time. This suggests the existence of "chemical signals" or, at
least, significant changes in the water concentration of certain inhibitory compounds released by competing species. It is relatively easy to find scientific papers
that support this evidence.
In the old times - the saying was that this demand on a long time depleting of some species specific micro nutrients or trace compounds. The WC reintroduce them - hence more monoculture growth of certain species and new log-phase of growth. Today - many years after introduction of the Triton concept (with all its variants) I think that we probably know that theory can´t be the whole truths. It possible the create a monoculture free tank in the long run and follow it up with addition of at least 40 different compounds,

This may strengthen your conclusion

However - I think that there is one compound that can be algae limited in our aquarium - NH4/NH3 - especially if it heavy populated with corals. This because of zooxanthellae´s high affinity for it - if it present and that they can use N in form of NO3 if NH4/NH3 is absent. Many of the problematic monoculture forming Algae can´t do that because they lack a special enzyme,

Among freshwater plant aquarist - this is well known - they dose NO3 instead of NH4/NH3 - just in order not to favour the microalgae

In a mature tank - a NH4/NH3 molecule will have an extremely short lifespan and the problematic algae may not capture it. For competition algae and organisms that can use NO3 - this is a godsend

hair algae, are initiated in a "synchronized" way at different spots of the tank, at exactly at the same time. This suggests the existence of "chemical signals" or, at least, significant changes in the water concentration of certain inhibitory compounds released by competing species. It is relatively easy to find scientific papers that support this evidence.
This "islands" is often reported to exist there the substrate is rather high in organic matter indicating local bacteria produced NH4/NH3 - it is relatively easy to find scientific papers on this too :)

According cyanobacteria - they don't care - if there is no inorganic N that they can use, they fix it themselves (one way or another) through nitrogen fixation from N2 to NH4/NH3

Conclusion for discussion.

The hypothesis presented is that the chemical interaction between the organisms that inhabit a reef tank is probably the most important factor that allows the ecosystem to "self-regulate" its algae populations, so that the probability of a single species taking advantage of the others is quite low. This would therefore be the most determining factor in terms of the robustness of an aquarium. Almost all algae species are desired. What is undesired by the hobbyist is a pest of any one of them. I am convinced that this chemical interaction plays a decisive factor in determining the concept of "mature aquarium". One question would be: What percentage of the total "maturity" of the tank could be attributed to this factor if any?
I would say that it is probably a important factor but I think it demand other factors to be present too. A constant grazing of the substrate that create a thin but active biofilm, a large population of other photosynthetic organisms (macro algae at @Subsea ´s aquarium and corals in all others :anguished-face::anguished-face:) that "suck up" NH4/NH3 - a population of organic detritus feeders or other actions that prevents built up of NH4/NH3 producing pockets in places there it is a heavy lighting.

You may notice my spare use of the word pest - I prefer organism with ability to form monocultures

This got long - but thank you again for the article and I hope that my post will take the discussion further. Note - I do not say your wrong but there is things to discuss IMO

Sincerely Lasse
 
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Subsea

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WOW! Quite a hypothesis. I have only thought about this for an hour and here are my initial thoughts.

The aquarium is a messy system to understand. It consists of hundreds of species with a network of interactions numbering in the thousands or maybe millions. This makes being able to explain why an aquarium is a success an amazing feat.

The most difficult interactions to understand are the ones between the aquarist and the aquarium. These are the most difficult to observe, and I think, the least studied of all. Without a better understanding of the aquarist-aquarium interaction, aquarium performance will remain a mystery. This leads me to a tongue in cheek counter hypothesis:

An aquarium will be a success when the aquarist becomes mature and interactions with the aquarium become stable. Mature encompasses acquiring implicit and explicit knowledge about nurturing other species. Stable can be replaced with disciplined.

More later, maybe.

kudoes to this paragraph on what constitutes a mature tank:

“An aquarium will be a success when the aquarist becomes mature and interactions with the aquarium become stable. Mature encompasses acquiring implicit and explicit knowledge about nurturing other species. Stable can be replaced with disciplined.“
 

Subsea

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IME there is not a direct relation cause-efect between nitrate and phosphate concentration and algae quantity, as there are many other factors involved, mainly allelopathy between bacteria, phytoplankton, zooplankton, corals and other invertebrates. A mature tank implies a previous bentic succession of bacteria, protists, phyto and zooplankton that allow the ecosystem (the tank) to self regulate its species populations through chemical interaction. After some time, no one of the species is able to get such a big advantage over the rest because its growth is inhibited by the others. This is the situation of equilibrium (or stability). Stability and diversity are causes and consecuences of each other, some type of an autocatalytic loop
Kudos to this paragraph.


Thank you for the topic. As I said on a previous algae thread; I don’t manage algae, I partner with it,
 

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kudoes to this paragraph on what constitutes a mature tank:

“An aquarium will be a success when the aquarist becomes mature and interactions with the aquarium become stable. Mature encompasses acquiring implicit and explicit knowledge about nurturing other species. Stable can be replaced with disciplined.“
Funny thing is that I was just wondering if I had replied to this post but was at the moment too lazy to investigate. Thanks for reminding me :)

We forget or don’t notice that there is so much about an aquarium’s success that depends on the aquarists. Not sure that any expert has really addressed this subject in there book yet.
 

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Funny thing is that I was just wondering if I had replied to this post but was at the moment too lazy to investigate. Thanks for reminding me :)

We forget or don’t notice that there is so much about an aquarium’s success that depends on the aquarists. Not sure that any expert has really addressed this subject in their Not sure that any expert has really addressed this subject in there book yet.

Few would buy the book, if the author said that the reader was the problem with maturity in his tank
 

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Hi @Beuchat

Very good write up. i have some comments - do not see it as critic because basically - the article is so good that I could have written it by myself :anguished-face::anguished-face::anguished-face::anguished-face::anguished-face::anguished-face::anguished-face:;)

My bolt


"little CO2" my bolt. I suspect that you mean inorganic carbon, In a reef aquarium with alkalinity of around 7 dKH - most photosynthetic organisms will not have a DIC (Dissolved Inorganic Carbon) limitation Most photosynthetic organism has the ability to in one or another way convert HCO3 into needed CO2. However some microalgae/ photosynthetic bacteria (and probably some macro too) has no/poor ability to use HCO3 as a DIC source - they need CO2. However - this seems to be very genus/species specific and include both "good" and "bad" organisms (in our point of view)

As you I´m an old reefer and therefore I have the habit to make a Google search in order to see if I remember right, if the science have change and if it is any new findings. I run into this review that change some of my standpoints and strengthen some. One interesting finding was that dinoflagellates probably as a group may tend to benefit from enhanced CO2.

Except from Endosymbiotic dinoflagellates (read zooxanthellae) the benefit of CO2 seems partly be species specific. Endosymbiotic dinoflagellates (read zooxanthellae) seems to have an ability tos switch between HCO3 and CO2 uptake depending if they was outside or inside the host (coral/clam animal)

This indicate that at least some species of problematic dinoflagellates can be defeated by lower the CO2 in the aquarium (read - rising the pH). If it works in practise - now idea at all


Spot on


According to NO3 - I have noted that a rise of NO3 up to 3 - 5 mg/L can help to defeat some cyanobacteria that form mats. The main theory I have for that is not competition for N - instead - surprisingly I think it is competition for P. The main reason for this is whats happen in the dark, below the mats. The most species that form mats is not nitrogen fixators by them self but it seems that they create a oxygen free environment below the mats that favour N fixating bacteria. Oxygen free environment above and in a sediment can release metal -bounded P if H2S is present (read formed). Its well known that NO3 levels above 2 ppm counteract H2S production in sediment and poorwater. Note - I´m aware that it exist Cyanobacteria mats even in high NO3 concentrations but my experiences says that between 70 - 80 % of the cases - rising the NO3 and stirring away the mats helps.



Grazing is IMO the most important thing to have in mind. It is IMO very, very important to introduce an CUC population including crabs, snails, hermits and urchins early in the lifespan of the aquarium. Even before you can see any visible microalgae. Using different species of grazers are important too. The reason is - as you mention elsewhere - the initial exponential reproduction phase


If everything going south and a monoculture of some species establish itself - this is a very important advise IMO. The biomass must be bringed down of several reasons. Some of them are creating space for other species, limit the toxin concentration (see below) , bringing production to the same rate as your CUC can consume it. In a benthic monoculture bloom - the amount of CUC needed is huge. Bringing down the monoculture population into the level that its production is slightly lower than the optimal grazing consumption will result in a healthy tank sooner or later. If the monoculture population is to huge - the production of toxins may affect the CUC and other animals beside other algae competitors.


Yes this is probably an important factor but IMO not by itself. IMO - the grazing of many specialized and also of generalists - more or less down to the bones is the most important factor that prevent that any organism get a chance to start the monoculture race. In the early growth phase - concentration of special allelopathy compounds will not be as high that it affect more than the closest surrounding of the producing organism. This compounds are - at least in the growth phase species specific and does not affect the producing organism - only other organism IMO. Everything else would be against the laws of evolution - IMO.



I´m not sure if this is in line with my experiences. At least for some Cyanobacteria or/and possible some species of dinoflagellates I get a growth on the sand if I dose to much Ethanol


In the old times - the saying was that this demand on a long time depleting of some species specific micro nutrients or trace compounds. The WC reintroduce them - hence more monoculture growth of certain species and new log-phase of growth. Today - many years after introduction of the Triton concept (with all its variants) I think that we probably know that theory can´t be the whole truths. It possible the create a monoculture free tank in the long run and follow it up with addition of at least 40 different compounds,

This may strengthen your conclusion

However - I think that there is one compound that can be algae limited in our aquarium - NH4/NH3 - especially if it heavy populated with corals. This because of zooxanthellae´s high affinity for it - if it present and that they can use N in form of NO3 if NH4/NH3 is absent. Many of the problematic monoculture forming Algae can´t do that because they lack a special enzyme,

Among freshwater plant aquarist - this is well known - they dose NO3 instead of NH4/NH3 - just in order not to favour the microalgae

In a mature tank - a NH4/NH3 molecule will have an extremely short lifespan and the problematic algae may not capture it. For competition algae and organisms that can use NO3 - this is a godsend


This "islands" is often reported to exist there the substrate is rather high in organic matter indicating local bacteria produced NH4/NH3 - it is relatively easy to find scientific papers on this too :)

According cyanobacteria - they don't care - if there is no organic N that they can use, they fix it themselves (one way or another) through nitrogen fixation from N2 to NH4/NH3


I would say that it is probably a important factor but I think it demand other factors to be present too. A constant grazing of the substrate that create a thin but active biofilm, a large population of other photosynthetic organisms (macro algae at @Subsea ´s aquarium and corals in all others :anguished-face::anguished-face:) that "suck up" NH4/NH3 - a population of organic detritus feeders or other actions that prevents built up of NH4/NH3 producing pockets in places there it is a heavy lighting.

You may notice my spare use of the word pest - I prefer organism with ability to form monocultures

This got long - but thank you again for the article and I hope that my post will take the discussion further. Note - I do not say your wrong but there is things to discuss IMO

Sincerely Lasse
@Lasse
Thank you for your focus on this. You got more technical than my pay-grade. Let’s see what OP thinks.

My Swedish friend, how is the winter progressing for you? Was “end of summer” crawfish boil a success?
 

Subsea

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I am not young enough to know everything, but neither so old that I forgotten everything;)

@Lasse
Your quote in your signature was my first impression of you as a humorist. The second part of your quote reflects your noble spirit. I suspect you may have Viking dna.

Liberté, égalité, fraternité
 

Welcoming coral to your home!!! How do you add coral to your tank?

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