Why are all systems running out of bacteria?

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Duncan62

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Why do we feel there are bacteria issues in our aquarium? Could it be that the bacteria-in-the-bottle vendors have scared us into thinking we need to buy their product? And why are we using the word diversity so much in this hobby to explain our issues?

I have to wonder if bacteria in a bottle (not the cycling bacteria product) is snake oil.
Most folks cycle with chemicals now. The way it's been done for 50 years is now bad. Nitrite is harmless. Use dry rocks and pour in bacteria. That's trendy now. I'll never by it.
 
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Oldreefer44

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Because fake rock,fake bacteria in a bottle hurry up,try this ,hurry up try that, a true real tank takes its time don't add fake bacteria to tank to hurry up. They add a shrimp and that's all ,all that fake stuff dies, and they rely on poop but fake bacteria don't know poop,the fake bacteria get it off market and send everyone a shrimp and make reefing healthy again and no more hurrying up and that's the bottom line because stone cold said so..lol
Love to see your factual evidence. Lots of current studies going on to try to identify all off the bacterial strains that inhabit our tanks. There are those that say they have identified most of them as well as their impact on the microbiome. These people are a lot smarter than I am so I will try to "follow the science" and see where it goes from here. At this point I have no way of knowing if these "bacteria in a bottle" are really needed or beneficial but IMO neither do 99.9% of the rest of us. So I will take a slightly skeptical wait and see attitude but at the same time am not going to label as "snake oil" because I just don't know.
 

Oldreefer44

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How outrageous I would never add bleach to my system I would never use bleach for anything I believe it is a poison!
There are a few very well know 'experts" (cant remember names) who do dose bleach in large systems. Not something I would do, but they swear by it. Think it was on one of Reefbums podcasts but not sure.
 

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There are a few very well know 'experts" (cant remember names) who do dose bleach in large systems. Not something I would do, but they swear by it. Think it was on one of Reefbums podcasts but not sure.
Poisons are only toxic, at a certain level. Too much oxygen can kill ya
 

Alexraptor

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Fascinating read. I had no idea that this was ever a problem or even a thing. But then I'm one of those who has never ever set up a reef tank with dry rock.

That our equipment may be filtering out beneficial bacteria is rather thought provoking. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the healthiest reef I've kept long-term, is a system completely devoid of mechanical filtering.
 
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Garf

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Fascinating read. I had no idea that this was ever a problem or even a thing. But then I'm one of those who has never ever said up a reef tank with dry rock.

That our equipment may be filtering out beneficial bacteria is rather thought provoking. Perhaps it's no coincidence that the healthiest reef I've kept long-term, is a system completely devoid of mechanical filtering.
A bit confusing but if you’ve never set up a dry rock tank you may have saved money on shrinks.
 

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Most folks cycle with chemicals now. The way it's been done for 50 years is now bad. Nitrite is harmless. Use dry rocks and pour in bacteria. That's trendy now. I'll never by it.
Yes, procedures have changed and possibly not for the better. The use of bottled bacteria to produce a nitrifying filter in a new system is fine, but I still wonder how the aquarium-of-today acquires the bacteria, fungus, algae and viruses that once arrived with live rocks (I‘m one of those that enjoyed discovering the hitchhikers on the newly acquired rocks).
 

Garf

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Yes, procedures have changed and possibly not for the better. The use of bottled bacteria to produce a nitrifying filter in a new system is fine, but I still wonder how the aquarium-of-today acquires the bacteria, fungus, algae and viruses that once arrived with live rocks (I‘m one of those that enjoyed discovering the hitchhikers on the newly acquired rocks).
You think when folks added shrimp to cycle they just added nitrifying bacteria, lol
 

WhiskyTango

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Truly honest question, supposing that we are not adding bleach to our systems. What’s happening to the bacteria this days? Is it dying and if it’s dying how can we introduce new bacteria, if we can’t even sustain the ones we were supposed to have, it seems to be the new trend, add as many as you can. Is microbe diversity really achieved this way?
I always had in mind that diversity was achieved with a stable system and if it’s stable are we really loosing out on something?
No one is running out of bacteria. ‍♂️
 
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Dan_P

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You think when folks added shrimp to cycle they just added nitrifying bacteria, lol
Nope, way more complex, but not sure starting an aquarium with rotting meat is ideal either.

On one level, the rotting shrimp is just a source of ammonia to get the nitrifying bacteria growing. Probably no one has investigated this further, for example, comparing aquaria started with raw shrimp vs boiled shrimp to see what else the raw shrimp adds to the system (I wonder how much phytoplankton come with your average raw shrimp?). Also, it would be interesting to determine if the raw shrimp approach cuts down on dinoflagellate growth compared to the strictly inorganic ammonia start with bottled bacteria.

So many interesting questions. We need more citizen scientists to start running experiments and spend less time arguing on social media :)
 

Forty-Two

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Started a tank approximately 3.5 mos ago with live rock from KP aquatics. I will literally never do it with dry rock again. I'm feeding enough zooplankton and phytoplankton to create an algae forest the size of the Amazon, and there is literally no algae. The water is absolutely crystal clear. I've found some icky pests, like a leopard polyclad flatworm that ate three of my snails, a mithrax crab that ate a bunch of macros and a photosynthetic sponge, and there's a couple crabs I'm still working on catching, but overall it's a lot more fun and the tank is far more stable than my 2.5 year old tank, which is still struggling - you can tell something is out of whack, but it's none of the normal parameters or anything one can test for. My relationship with the new tank hasn't been "abusive" (heh.) and I have all sorts of cool tunicates, brittlestars, a pistol shrimp, fan-worms, sponges, and other things I haven't yet identified.

I got into the hobby because I love the ocean, and it's much more fun (for me) to create a natural ecosystem using natural filtration methods than have a perfectly neon, sterile, SPS tank. To each their own. Neither one is better or worse, but I do think beginners would be more likely to stick with the hobby if they traded dry rock for live. The struggle is real otherwise.
If I had the choice this is what I’d be doing as well. My options aren’t horrible - I was able to get live rock, but it had been in tanks for the last 20 years, and thus much less biodiversity than I want.
 

SunnyX

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I’ve been adding bacteria to my systems for 18 years now, and carbon dosing for almost as long. Bacteria, its addition, proliferation and removal via a protein skimmer has been a cornerstone of all of my setups. After witnessing the benefits I would never run a system without it.

I have found no better and easier way to control nutrients, avoiding pesky ailments such as cyano/Algae/Dino’s, while experiencing incredible growth and coloration in corals.

Using this method, I have never had to directly feed my corals and I would wager that my SPS growth has always been in the 90+ percentile of all reef aquariums. Corals receive all that they need directly from the bacteria in the system. It’s a proven scientific fact that corals can receive 100% of their daily carbon and nitrogen needs directly from bacteria. [Link] Yet, you still have people dumping endless amounts of money and nutrients (coral foods) directly into their setup.

Concerning the bacteria and carbon dosing itself, it’s not without fault. It takes an advanced reefer to implement the system correctly. You’re constantly teetering on the brink, running such an ultra low nutrient system. For those willing to invest the time and energy the system can be one that will and can provide incredible results.

A couple people touched on the dry rock vs live rock debate and I whole heartily agree with the live rock camp. I would never setup an aquarium without actual live rock, especially the kind directly from the ocean. The amount of biodiversity that you receive from rock directly from vendors ,like KP Aquatics , is second to none. While the bottled bacteria will help a dry rock system it will never get it to the level of diversity that a live rock system enjoys.

Quite a few here are claiming bacterial additives to be snake oil but I find that hard to believe. The results I and many others have experienced first hand would say otherwise. The kicker here is that this system costs pennies compared to almost every other method out there. How much money are people wasting by purchasing coral food, expensive refugium systems, GFO, etc? A $12 bottle of bacteria and a 4$ bottle of vodka will last you at least three months and help reduce your nutrient while at the same time feeding your corals. In my opinion, no other method out there comes close.

No snake oil here; only proven results. Carbon dosing and bacterial driven systems FTW

-Sonny
 

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Definitely not IMO. I don’t see how bacteria will outcompete photosynthetic organisms. You don’t see that happening, but even with established rocks that were cured in the dark. Once the lights comes on it’s over for the bacteria. Algae will overdominate. If bacteria is strong enough to outcompete algae, then it’s even more worthless you go out to add them. They should definitely come with corals.

And even if bacteria does compete, I don’t believe that going out of your way to introduce them is worthwhile. They will come in your corals regardless of whether you want them to or not.


I haven't read the thread but just saw this. Photosynthesis produces sugars. You need a lot more than sugar to survive and that is what bacteria competes with. This includes space, nitrogen, phosphorus, carbon, and every other element needed to live.
 

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Truly honest question, supposing that we are not adding bleach to our systems. What’s happening to the bacteria this days? Is it dying and if it’s dying how can we introduce new bacteria, if we can’t even sustain the ones we were supposed to have, it seems to be the new trend, add as many as you can. Is microbe diversity really achieved this way?
I always had in mind that diversity was achieved with a stable system and if it’s stable are we really loosing out on something?


Skimmers. Thshot. By far the largest contributer to removing bacteria in our reef tanks by a long shot.
 
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Skimmers. Thshot. By far the largest contributer to removing bacteria in our reef tanks by a long shot.
I believe they do, the question is do they remove enough bacteria for the need to add more?
A mature system has so many surfaces that imo would be virtually impossible for a skimmer to do a dent on the bacterial population. Not to mention that nitrifying bacteria is doubling in size every 16 hours, being only limited by the amount of ammonia available in a system.
 

EricR

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I asked the same question as the OP a while back in another thread, just so I could understand (((but in a way that generated way less thought and discussion)))

FWIW -- I started with just a "rotting piece of shrimp" about 5 years ago (((jellyfish))) and kept just moving substrate forward since then without ever adding bottled bacteria. I think I'm still doing OK,,, but I only have a 40 gallon tank.

Oh,,, wait,,, I sort of just lied -- I did add live rock when I did a tank size jump, the time before last.
*Live rock from PetCo (that's right,,, don't hate)

I am interested in the topic of diversity of bacteria and if/how beneficial it is but, I guess, there's many different opinions on this so I'll just have to leave well enough alone for now.
 
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I asked the same question as the OP a while back in another thread, just so I could understand (((but in a way that generated way less thought and discussion)))

FWIW -- I started with just a "rotting piece of shrimp" about 5 years ago (((jellyfish))) and kept just moving substrate forward since then without ever adding bottled bacteria. I think I'm still doing OK,,, but I only have a 40 gallon tank.

Oh,,, wait,,, I sort of just lied -- I did add live rock when I did a tank size jump, the time before last.
*Live rock from PetCo (that's right,,, don't hate)

I am interested in the topic of diversity of bacteria and if/how beneficial it is but, I guess, there's many different opinions on this so I'll just have to leave well enough alone for now.
It’s anything happening in your tank that you think bacteria could help you with at the moment?
 

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I believe they do, the question is do they remove enough bacteria for the need to add more?
A mature system has so many surfaces that imo would be virtually impossible for a skimmer to do a dent on the bacterial population. Not to mention that nitrifying bacteria is doubling in size every 16 hours, being only limited by the amount of ammonia available in a system.


Surface bacteria and water column bacteria are two different things. I doubt it has much if any impact on surface dwelling microbes
 

EricR

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It’s anything happening in your tank that you think bacteria could help you with at the moment?
Not sure -- been getting some GHA pockets on my one pile that was started from dry/white rock some months ago (((added during last tank transfer))).

My PetCo live rock (if I can call it that) structure has ZERO GHA pockets,,, go figure.

Mostly I'm just interested in the topic and if I believed there was strong evidence for reasonable benefits (from adding different bacterial strains), I'd probably just do it, even if not trying to remedy any issues.
 
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