Where do nutrients go in cryptic zones?

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Freelamp944

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I've been doing some research on using cryptic zones in place of a skimmer and I'm curious how nutrient export actually happens. Obviously, with a skimmer we physically dump the waste down the drain. With a cryptic zone, sponges and other critters eat the dissolved organics, but nothing is actually removed. What do the sponges produce for waste? Does another organism use that waste and eventually create a cycle back to something fish and corals can eat?

Also, I've read a lot of people saying cryptic zones require no maintenance. It seems like never cleaning them would create some of the same risks that a DSB has. Without maintenance, is there any risk of causing an ammonia spike by disturbing a cryptic zone?

If you have any other opinions or information about using a cryptic zone or other natural filtration methods, I would love to hear them!
 

HuduVudu

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I'm curious how nutrient export actually happens.
It doesn't, it can't. It is bound into the organisms in the zone. Also even though the photosynthetic organisms aren't competing doesn't mean that there isn't competition and the competition can be just as fierce. The zone is space and everything about the reef is a competition for space, eventually the space will be consumed.

It seems like never cleaning them would create some of the same risks that a DSB has
What risks are those?

The key for a more natural tank is to achieve a balance and have the maximum competition among all inhabitants. This ensures one type of organism doesn't achieve plague status and also allows for coverage for shifts in the biome that my be detrimental to one or group of organisms.

Natural is a bit of a misnomer because even in the ocean there are areas that favor different organisms, so what is "natural" in one are is not in another. In the closed system of our tanks what we choose for "filtration" will determine the types of organisms that are favored and how successful they will be.

The real answer is what type of biome are you trying to recreate or mimic. That will determine the type of "filtration" that you will use.
 
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Freelamp944

Freelamp944

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The zone is space and everything about the reef is a competition for space, eventually the space will be consumed.
So if the organisms have to be able to grow to bind up nutrients, once they outgrow their space will they become an ineffective part of nutrient control?

What risks are those?
I've read a few posts warning that a DSB can leach toxins and crash a tank if they are disturbed. Also, in one of the BRS videos one of the guys said that he avoids DSB because he doesn't want to risk having something that could potentially crash his tank. I do understand that this is a very debated topic though.

Natural is a bit of a misnomer because even in the ocean there are areas that favor different organisms, so what is "natural" in one are is not in another.
This is part of the reason cryptic zones peaked my interested. Just like we maintain our water parameters to match the ocean, it seems like it would make sense to match the actual areas of the ocean as well. Even if adding a cryptic zone wouldn't do anything for my tank, I think it would still be cool just to see and learn about the organisms that live there.
 

Nano sapiens

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Having an interest in 'natural' filtration methods, here's my take on this:

Considering just the cryptic zone for a moment, a growing/expanding zone would result in sequestration of nutrients within the various organisms' tissues. Once all grown in, however, the uptake of nutrients would be much reduced as the cryptic organisms only need enough nutrients to maintain their metabolism and possible sexual reproduction.

If you consider the system as a whole (display and cryptic zone), the products of the cryptic organisms (constant sponge shedding of cells, gametes, etc.) can help power the system's food web which can benefit corals and other macro organisms. A mature, completely full display and cryptic zone would theoretically require reduced nutrient input and might be thought of as in a relatively 'stable state'...until organisms are removed in one or the other (or both) so that new growth, and the resulting enhanced nutrient sequestration, can occur.

Like any part of a system that is not maintained, if the cryptic zone is allowed to be smothered in detritus, then I could certainly see some potential issues arising.
 
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HuduVudu

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So if the organisms have to be able to grow to bind up nutrients, once they outgrow their space will they become an ineffective part of nutrient control?
@Nano sapiens I think hits this one on the head.
Considering just the cryptic zone for a moment, a growing/expanding zone would result in sequestration of nutrients within the various organisms' tissues. Once all grown in, however, the uptake of nutrients would be much reduced as the cryptic organisms only need enough nutrients to maintain their metabolism and possible sexual reproduction.
The sexual reproduction would possibly produce food for the aquarium. Thus transforming the nutrients to food possibly.

I've read a few posts warning that a DSB can leach toxins and crash a tank if they are disturbed. Also, in one of the BRS videos one of the guys said that he avoids DSB because he doesn't want to risk having something that could potentially crash his tank. I do understand that this is a very debated topic though.
Anaerobic areas process nutrients slowly. If the anaerobic area is disturbed the resulting rapid aerobic decomposition of the nutrient pool can be devastating. The funny part is that it doesn't take a very deep sand bed for this to occur and any area that can become anaerobic will be a problem. Like the sand near and under rock. I find all of this to be silly. If you are aware that anaerobic zones exist then take measures to ensure the tank's safety. I just laugh there are so many ways to crash your tank and your success as a reef keeper is mitigating those issues. To the BRS guy ... do you not run a heater because it could crash your tank? You see what I am saying it is just silly.

This is part of the reason cryptic zones peaked my interested. Just like we maintain our water parameters to match the ocean,
Think about this. I live near the Gulf of Mexico. I went to the Gulf to get some live sand. Since the area that I went to was farther away from the shipping at Galveston, I figured contaminants would be at a minimum. I took my refractometer to test the water. I measured 1.027. Wait then why am I running my tank at 1.023 like everyone says the ocean is? This is the same as people saying that their PH is x. Yah when is it x? and what is it's variance over time? The parameters in the ocean are different in different places ... the ocean is not a monlith. That is why chasing numbers in ridiculous. There is no such thing as matching parameters in the ocean. This is a thinking that new reefers need to shake.

it seems like it would make sense to match the actual areas of the ocean as well.
Because of the luck of life I was stationed in the military on a pennisula in the Philippines for three years. I used to snorkel along it's very long shore. It was like a drive through a very environmental diverse state. There was one are that because of tide and wind occurences was a overcome by macro algae. This area was incredibly fascinating though difficult to snorkel. A half a mile away was a black urchin inlet. Though I didn't have the tools at the time I would bet that each of these areas had dramatically different parameters. I do know that they had dramatically different temperatures because I could feel it. And to feel temperature changes in the water means they are pretty big.

Even if adding a cryptic zone wouldn't do anything for my tank, I think it would still be cool just to see and learn about the organisms that live there.
People get so lost with trying to impress people that they forget THIS is the only reason we should be doing what we are doing as hobbyists. :)
 
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Nano sapiens

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Freelamp944 said:
Even if adding a cryptic zone wouldn't do anything for my tank, I think it would still be cool just to see and learn about the organisms that live there.

As @HuduVudu pointed out observing and learning about the organisms is paramount. I am also of the opinion that this should be the most important reason for doing what we do.

In Vol 3 of the 'Reef Aquarium' series (Delbeek/Sprung), they rightly point out that in any successful reef aquarium using natural live rock there will naturally be numerous cryptic zone microhabitats. So in my mind, a special cryptic zone sump or equivalent is a great place to better observe many of the reef organisms that we wouldn't normal see much of.
 
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Subsea

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@Nano sapiens I think hits this one on the head.

The sexual reproduction would possibly produce food for the aquarium. Thus transforming the nutrients to food possibly.


Anaerobic areas process nutrients slowly. If the anaerobic area is disturbed the resulting rapid aerobic decomposition of the nutrient pool can be devastating. The funny part is that it doesn't take a very deep sand bed for this to occur and any area that can become anaerobic will be a problem. Like the sand near and under rock. I find all of this to be silly. If you are aware that anaerobic zones exist then take measures to ensure the tank's safety. I just laugh there are so many ways to crash your tank and your success as a reef keeper is mitigating those issues. To the BRS guy ... do you not run a heater because it could crash your tank? You see what I am saying it is just silly.


Think about this. I live near the Gulf of Mexico. I went to the Gulf to get some live sand. Since the area that I went to was farther away from the shipping at Galveston, I figured contaminants would be at a minimum. I took my refractometer to test the water. I measured 1.027. Wait then why am I running my tank at 1.023 like everyone says the ocean is? This is the same as people saying that their PH is x. Yah when is it x? and what is it's variance over time? The parameters in the ocean are different in different places ... the ocean is not a monlith. That is why chasing numbers in ridiculous. There is no such thing as matching parameters in the ocean. This is a thinking that new reefers need to shake.


Because of the luck of life I was stationed in the military on a pennisula in the Philippines for three years. I used to snorkel along it's very long shore. It was like a drive through a very environmental diverse state. There was one are that because of tide and wind occurences was a overcome by macro algae. This area was incredibly fascinating though difficult to snorkel. A half a mile away was a black urchin inlet. Though I didn't have the tools at the time I would bet that each of these areas had dramatically different parameters. I do know that they had dramatically different temperatures because I could feel it. And to feel temperature changes in the water means they are pretty big.


People get so lost with trying to impress people that they forget THIS is the only reason we should be doing what we are doing as hobbyists. :)

This post is Platnium. Much wisdom and pragmatism.
 

Subsea

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In Vol 3 of the 'Reef Aquarium' series (Delbeek/Sprung), they rightly point out that in any successful reef aquarium using natural live rock there will naturally be numerous cryptic zone microhabitats. So in my mind, a special cryptic zone sump or equivalent is a great place to better observe many of the reef organisms that we wouldn't normal see much of.

@Nano sapiens
Kudoes to a great book. Further on in their book, it was documented that nitrification & denitrification happened in close proximity of each other. When I first read this, I was running a Jaubert Plenum with a 4” DSB to remove nitrate from the water. Today I dose ammoni.
 

Subsea

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I've been doing some research on using cryptic zones in place of a skimmer and I'm curious how nutrient export actually happens. Obviously, with a skimmer we physically dump the waste down the drain. With a cryptic zone, sponges and other critters eat the dissolved organics, but nothing is actually removed. What do the sponges produce for waste? Does another organism use that waste and eventually create a cycle back to something fish and corals can eat?

Also, I've read a lot of people saying cryptic zones require no maintenance. It seems like never cleaning them would create some of the same risks that a DSB has. Without maintenance, is there any risk of causing an ammonia spike by disturbing a cryptic zone?

If you have any other opinions or information about using a cryptic zone or other natural filtration methods, I would love to hear them!

Stop thinking nutrient export. Start thinking nutrient recycling by processing DOC in reef water, sponges move carbon up the food chain using the microbial loop.



[Marine sponges are ubiquitous colonizers of shallow, clear-water environments in the oceans (1, 2). Sponges have emerged as significant mediators of biogeochemical fluxes in coastal zones by virtue of respiring organic matter and facilitating both the consumption and release of nutrients (3, 4). Sponges gain their nutrition through filtering out plankton and organic detritus and through uptake of dissolved organic matter from seawater (4). Many species host diverse microbial symbiont communities that contribute to digestion and nutrient release from the filtered organics, and in some species cyanobacterial symbionts can supply fresh photosynthate to meet a substantial fraction of the sponge energy requirements (5). In PNAS, Zhang et al. (6) reveal a major and heretofore unknown role for sponges with regard to the marine phosphorus cycle. The authors present strong evidence for polyphosphate (poly-P) production and storage by sponge endosymbionts. Zhang et al. also may have detected apatite, a calcium phosphate mineral, in sponge tissue. This work has major implications for our understanding of nutrient cycling in reef environments, the roles played by microbial endosymbiont communities in general, and aspects of P cycling on geologic timescales.]

[Reef ecosystems harbor some of the greatest concentrations of biodiversity in the marine environment (7). This diversity is supported in part by gross rates of photosynthesis that can approach those of tropical rainforests (8, 9). However, reefs persist in extremely low nutrient environments and show little net production of organic matter. Sponges have proven to be key players in facilitating this rapid treadmill of photosynthetic and respiratory turnover of carbon (4).]

[Sponges are major biogeochemical agents by virtue of their abundance coupled with the large volumes of water they process (Fig. 1), many species in excess of 10,000 body volumes of seawater per day (11, 12). Sponges metabolize a significant fraction of reef primary production (4) and also return organic carbon to the reef environment through shedding of cellular materials, which are rapidly consumed by detritivores (13).]
 

Nano sapiens

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Stop thinking nutrient export. Start thinking nutrient recycling by processing DOC in reef water, sponges move carbon up the food chain using the microbial loop.

I think what Subsea is trying to get across is that thinking predominately about export can lead to missing the very important nutrient recycling part of the equation. Although both do happen, to varying degrees, in any natural system.

To show this in a 'big picture' kind of way (going a bit outside the original topic, but I digress), let's consider the most complete and complex natural recycling system that we know of, namely the earth itself. Relatively very little nutrient input, same for export, yet it has maintained a viable biosphere for millennia. If we shrink down to examine a coral reef, we see relatively large import and export influences, a good deal of recycling, but also substantial exports as detritus or 'marine snow' that slowly make their way downslope and end up on the abyssal plane. And finally, shrinking our perspective down to a coral reef aquarium, once again we see recycling, but no 'drop off' of detritus into a completely different ecosystem (like the abyssal plane).

Interesting that as a natural system gets ever smaller (and naturally less complex with fewer components), it becomes less able to 'run on autopilot', so to speak. And we can see this when comparing a much larger reef aquarium to a much smaller one as the larger one can typically run with much less direct aquarist intervention (vis-a-vis detritus export) for a much longer period of time.
 
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Subsea

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I think what Subsea is trying to get across is that thinking predominately about export can lead to missing the very important nutrient recycling part of the equation. Although both do happen, to varying degrees, in any natural system.

To show this in a 'big picture' kind of way (going a bit outside the original topic, but I digress), let's consider the most complete and complex natural recycling system that we know of, namely the earth itself. Relatively very little nutrient input, same for export, yet it has maintained a viable biosphere for millennia. If we shrink down to examine a coral reef, we see relatively large import and export influences, a good deal of recycling, but also substantial exports as detritus or 'marine snow' that slowly make their way downslope and end up on the abyssal plane. And finally, shrinking our perspective down to a coral reef aquarium, once again we see recycling, but no 'drop off' of detritus into a completely different ecosystem (like the abyssal plane).

Interesting that as a natural system gets ever smaller (and naturally less complex with fewer components), it becomes less able to 'run on autopilot', so to speak. And we can see this when comparing a much larger reef aquarium to a much smaller one as the larger one can typically run with much less direct aquarist intervention (vis-a-vis detritus export) for a much longer period of time.

Eureka! You hit the nail on the head.

When I started Reefing in 1971, we had no internet to discuss nutrient management. We didn’t know what DOC was.

During these early days, I worked in deep water offshore drilling 28 days on & 28 days off. With no reliable ways to build automated systems, without the gold in Fort Knox, I decided to build food webs. With a 150G display in the house, I connected an extended refugium/propagation system of 1500G in garage. When I was in on days off, I feed heavy with heavy growth in micro invert populations. During days at work these populations dwindled, yet tank was maintained with live food webs.

So that we are all on the same page with respect to carbon dosing, how does nature introduce carbon into the food web of the oceans.

Carbon dioxide as a free gas is readily dissolved into the water from the air. Where it is converted into a weak carbonic acid which is buffered by carbonate & bicarbonate molecules then thru photosynthesis inorganic carbon dioxide is converted into organic glucose which is carbon for the reef.

PS: I ran this system on autopilot for 25 years.
 
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