Fishless cycling/ammonia and a high 5 for Waterbug!

JohnHuff

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I've been away from the pond forum for a while because I've started keeping tropical fish in an aquarium and spending a lot of time reading articles and participating in aquarium forums (ya, as if I had that much more spare time). In my readings I came across something WB had said a long time ago and which I treated as mumbo jumbo, and that was pouring ammonia into a pond to to see if the nitrifying bacteria would eat it up. At the time I thought it would be crazy, why would I pour toxic substances into my pond? Ammonia is really bad stuff, you know?

As it turns out, aquaria enthusiasts have been doing something like that, and it's called fishless cycling, to get their tank bacteria jump started. This is supposed to be a relatively new phenomenon. Now, I don't know if WB got the idea from aquaria circles or if he came up with it independently. If the latter, then he's raised to genius level in my mind. Anyhoo, I now believe that fishless cycling is something that new pond keepers should also be doing to jump start their pond. And in the same vein, another thing WB said, that bottled bacteria is worthless, is apparently something which tank keepers share as well.
 

koiguy1969

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Pond and aquarium keepers have been using this method for years... this has been discussed here a few times over the years i've been here. i just dont really see the point..
 

crsublette

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It's awesome ... if you have no fish in the pond yet and have no previously established filter media available. I did a fishless cycle in my watergarden.

I am told fishless cycles are very beneficial for tropical and coral/reef aquariums since enthusiasts of these type of aquariums aim to seriously reconstruct the water's ecosystem with di-RO water and other elements so that the aquarium can support some very exotic fish.

This fishless water maturing methodology has been around for a long time. I was reading articles from back in the 90s about the process. Often, I found those older articles more useful.

Heh, either, introduce some cheap fish to jumpstart your water's ecosystem ((which takes a very long time, a month or longer)) ... or ... dump ammonia concentrations in their to seriously get things going so ya can seriously overstock your ecosystem within just a couple of weeks or less.

Only bottled bacteria I have read very good reviews from aquaria hobbiests and the critics is SeaChem Stability. Restaurants and hotels also use particular professional products to jump start their tanks since those tanks will very soon become extremely overstocked so the bio-filters have to be properly built very fast, and I doubt the fancy restaurants and hotels would say "yeah, lets just wait a few weeks with a pretty much empty tank with a few fish till we have an awesome fish tank with many beautiful tropical fish."

The nitrite-to-nitrate bacteria is the one bacteria that takes a while to get going regardless since they are very sensitive and slow growing, but nitrites are resolved easy enough with special nitrite filter media and a constant water trickle change system until the proper bacteria matures.

There are bacteria shysters out there no different than the global warming shysters and other shysters out there.
 

JohnHuff

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I prefer peeing in the pond (or aquarium), it has more of a personal touch, and it's organic. ;)
Only works if you pee ammonia or nitrites!

Re. the bottle bacteria: The nitrifying bacteria has to be kept well oxygenated. Think of all the things we have to do to keep them happy and alive! I can't think of how that type of bacteria will survive in a sealed bottled, for months, in the heat or cold, without dying. WB has said that the bottles really only hold nutrients or starter materials that help the nitrifying bacteria get started instead of the bacteria themselves. On the other hand, it appears that people do seem to be able to jump start their tanks with the stuff. I have no personal experience with that so I can't really say.
 
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Re. the bottle bacteria: The nitrifying bacteria has to be kept well oxygenated. Think of all the things we have to do to keep them happy and alive! I can't think of how that type of bacteria will survive in a sealed bottled, for months, in the heat or cold, without dying. WB has said that the bottles really only hold nutrients or starter materials that help the nitrifying bacteria get started instead of the bacteria themselves. On the other hand, it appears that people do seem to be able to jump start their tanks with the stuff. I have no personal experience with that so I can't really say.
My opinion on bottled bacteria is I have no idea what's in the bottle because I've never read of any seller ever saying what is in the bottle. I haven't read a bottle in awhile, but that's my understanding. It's 100% legal I believe to fill a bottle with tap water and sell it using all the wording I see sellers using because they would indeed be selling bacteria that would help your pond. I assume most fill bottles with water from a tank they added ammonia to and then added air. SeaChem, a top shelf company imo, also doesn't say the bacteria species they're sell. They do say:

The bacteria in Stability® are non-sulfur fixing, another innovation in the industry. Most other bacterial supplements will form toxic hydrogen sulfide under the proper conditions. Stability® will not, ever.
This would be difficult to prove since whatever you pour this stuff into, tank, pond, whatever, would already have the sulfur fixing bacteria. Kind of like introducing your daughter to a saint who will never corrupt her and then sending them both off to a frat party.

As for delivery I've never seen one of these product with an expiration date. There was a company, may have been SeaChem, that years ago required retailers to keep the bottles cold and they did provide a lot of info, although not a lot of proof. Maybe just all marketing. That product didn't last long as I remember.

I do think in some pretty rare cases bacteria in a bottle can be worth a try if the fastest cycle was really needed. For sure I would stick with products sold for aquariums and stay away from anyone selling pond products. People selling pond products sell some products I know, and they know, are complete fakes, like barley and others. So I don't really trust them.

BTW, most everything I know about water gardens I learned from Koi keepers, aquarists, fish farmers, waste treatment specialists and a little from marine biologists and human medical studies (assuming fish and human blood works basically the same). I've totally lucked into learning a few things on my own, but for the most part what I learned was I didn't know squat and better start reading. I learned that when I poured gasoline into my swimming pool to kill the mosquito larvae. I'd heard in Texas of cities pouring oil into water to keep the mosquitoes from being able to surface for air. Gasoline is like oil, isn't it? I'm kind of glad I didn't pour oil in there as how would have that been for a mess. As I was pouring in the gas it started to occur to me...I'm one match away from a Darwin award. Maybe it's time to start learning something. Yeah, I'm no genius.

Unfortunately the water garden forum has never been a very good source of info imo. Mostly myths. That's the beauty of the hobby. A person can believe every myth and still have a fine water garden for a long time.
 
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Only works if you pee ammonia or nitrites!
We all pee urea, and urea quickly breaks down to ammonia. The other bonus is it's free, even bottled ammonia cost money.

Re. the bottle bacteria: The nitrifying bacteria has to be kept well oxygenated. Think of all the things we have to do to keep them happy and alive! I can't think of how that type of bacteria will survive in a sealed bottled, for months, in the heat or cold, without dying.
Exactly why I believe those bottles of bacteria MUST be bogus.
Frankly I think if you really needed to transport bacteria to an environment that you needed to start a bacterial colony where you were sure there was none, like say you were building a pond on Mars, then the easiest way would be to dry it and transport it in powdered form.
 

crsublette

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We all pee urea, and urea quickly breaks down to ammonia. The other bonus is it's free, even bottled ammonia cost money.
:) Yeah, except urea contains all sorts of potentially nasty stuff that, over time, could hurt fish.

Urea is often used in farming, especially organic farming, and is mixed with other compounds to control the release of nitrogen in Urea. A concern in farming, if the urea in manure is not properly processed, it can leave a residue that greatly increases the salinity of soil, eventually sanitizing the soil.

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Some how it is more believable that the appropriate bacteria is always available and survives in the most arid, hot regions with rare rains. Yet, there is absolutely no way these same bacteria can be preserved for transportation without refigeration; refigeration is only used for live bacteria and the cold temperature increases the oxygen saturation and can not be too cold for the bacteria to remain alive unlike when it is in hibernation.

Don't think I have seen these products without an expiration date, much like water test kits. The SeaChem Stability has a 2 month expiration, date is printed on the bottles. I imagine agitation is a big contributor to the expiration date.

Frankly I think if you really needed to transport bacteria to an environment that you needed to start a bacterial colony where you were sure there was none, like say you were building a pond on Mars, then the easiest way would be to dry it and transport it in powdered form.
Spores is how bacteria is preserved then takes proper pH, proper water temperature, saturation, and agitation for the spores to wake up to start forming colonies. From what I understand, the bottles often become agitated far too much during transportation, allowing the bacteria to become alive, but, in this alive state in a bottle, they do not live long at all without sufficient oxygen, which isn't much. It is my understand that refrigeration is used only to increase oxygen saturation for bacteria that is alive; however, the bacteria does hibernate or die even when the temperatures become too cold.

Aquariums are the best test scenarios since the pros often, to control disease outbreaks, sanitize all the instruments quite well and controlling water temparature and pH to ensure an optimum environment for particular bacteria. Yet, ya likely will never convince the skeptics that the equipment or other variables introduced was actually clean to that pristine point.

For proof, a fella just has to look at the cycling duration, which I think is much tougher to determine in an outdoor pond environment. Due to the lack of a controlled environment, where the pH and water temperature is always going to be out of whack, the environment is never optimal for bacteria so the cycling duration is always going to be different for outdoor waters. Depending on how the pond is built, I bet ya outdoor ponds, throughout the seasons, experience the exact same environment as liquid in a bottle except for the difference in oxygen saturation; however, in a spore status in a material or liquid, the bacteria don't need anywhere near as much oxygen.

I think the skeptics will never be persuaded. If it turns out a product does work, then the skeptic will always say it is too hard for amateurs to prove and that the appropriate spores are always present somewhere in the environment, even though it takes time for the spores to come out of dormancy.

There is more science behind it all than the skeptics are willing to admit, and all the failures tend to be louder than anything that may actually work.

I do my best to be skeptic as well, but I am not going to allow my skepticism prevent me from a bit of self actualization from paying attention, reading, and trying stuff that go against what I think.
 
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For proof, a fella just has to look at the cycling duration, which I think is much tougher to determine in an outdoor pond environment. Due to the lack of a controlled environment, where the pH and water temperature is always going to be out of whack, the environment is never optimal for bacteria so the cycling duration is always going to be different for outdoor waters. Depending on how the pond is built, I bet ya outdoor ponds, throughout the seasons, experience the exact same environment as liquid in a bottle except for the difference in oxygen saturation; however, in a spore status in a material or liquid, the bacteria don't need anywhere near as much oxygen.
You see, it's the same fact that you need such a special controlled sterile laboratory environment just to show that bottled bacteria "might" work, which proves that it is not really necessary at all in the first place.
 

crsublette

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That's quite a jump to make taking what I wrote there to suggest that ya need a "sterile laboratory environment to show that it 'might' work".
 
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How else could you tell that the bacteria that colonize are the ones that you added, and not the ones that were in there in the first place?
 

crsublette

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Cycle or process duration to decompose X volume of Y variable within a length of time.
 
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As far as I've been able to learn about nitrifying bacteria their life cycle is not well understood. I believe species were only even identified in the 1970s. The only detailed info on how they live that I've read was on a species from France and they said other species may not behave the same, obviously. That study focused just on the life cycle from free swimming to bio film and then conversion rates. It didn't look into how that animal reproduced, survived harsh conditions, etc.

Whether these animals travel, reproduce, survive by sores or not I don't know. I don't think scientists are that interested in finding out because there wouldn't be any big payoff. At this point they've seemed more interested in conversion rates and understanding that process because it is so important to many related subjects.

I believe there are species that fill pretty much every niche. I assume if you peed on the ground at McMurdo Station there would be a bacteria sitting there waiting to say "Thank you very much". I know McMurdo Station is studying marine nitrifying bacteria conversion rates.

Exactly how these things survive is less important to me than time to cycle and conversion rate. Mainly because I have a chance of understand that and no chance of learning life cycle stuff without someone else doing that work and publishing.

For example, say a company did find a nitrifying bacteria species that could survive in a bottle on a shelf in a pet store. What's important to me is whether that species of bacteria can survive in my pond? To me that can only be determined by testing. If the bacteria in a bottle is in the form of spores, how long would it take for those spores to turn into a bio film ready to convert ammonia? Testing is the only way imo.

Sellers of these products say they do this and that, but I haven't seen much study data at all. Like I said, back a long time along one company did publish some stuff but it was pretty weak (not just my opinion). IMO I would like to see a company publish "we built this structure (pond, tank, whatever), we added this water (temp, pH, etc.) we dumped in X amount of our product, we add X amount of ammonia and here's the chart showing the levels of ammonia, nitirte, KH, pH over this time frame". And then the same except for adding their product. That's a super easy test to do. Way cheaper than any marketing program. Yet they don't do this as far as I can tell. Actually I bet some do the tests but don't publish the data because showing their product only speeds up cycling by a day or two in good conditions could hurt sales. Currently I think most people buying these products believe that it's the only source, or primary source, of bacteria. Companies don't seem in a rush to disprove that belief.
 

crsublette

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All testing I have ever seen from everyone, on both sides even from the companies, has been anecdotal. Even all of the studies, articles, and journals I have read involving ponds are just thesis' indicating that further investigation is needed to better understand all of the actors and processes. Even your super easy test is quite anecdotal. One forum member will setup a little test and it was successful; then, another member does the same with a different result. Not very scientific.

Whether these animals travel, reproduce, survive by sores or not I don't know. I don't think scientists are that interested in finding out because there wouldn't be any big payoff.
It seems they would be interested in the transportation mode of bacterial. They would want the bacteria to survive as it is being transported to the real world application through distributors, outside of their laboratories.

Obviously, bacteria is laying around, dormant somewhere, surviving extreme climates, then introduced eventually whenever water becomes present so to complete the nitrification process. Obviously, it takes time for the bacteria to grow since we know from our tests that it takes a good long while for ammonia and nitrites to be zero. Ammonia and nitrites fluctuate as well as we know from registering them on tests occasionally indicating the bacteria population does fluctuate.

Obviously, folk swear that transporting mature pond water or used "seeded" filter media from another pond helps to boost the cycling process.

Obviously, it is possible since Mother Nature has accomplished a distribution system, that survives extreme climates, even though the reaction is very slow and erratic.

I have become skeptical about many pond products since I have started in this hobby, but I still play around with some of them when I get the itch to do so to see if I see any increased biodegradable action, as long as the risks are tolerable. The SeaChem Stability one is just the latest one I have used. Use it or not, whatever. None of my fish nor test parameters have shown ill affects ... yet. :)
 
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Even your super easy test is quite anecdotal. One forum member will setup a little test and it was successful; then, another member does the same with a different result. Not very scientific.
Doesn't have to be anecdotal, there are a lot of ponds out there. It would be good enough for me, which is really kind of my only interest. These animals do seem to be very reliable, conversion rate are repeated in the lab and there are dudes on Koiphen doing reasonable calculations on food fed and bio conversions. While the animals' life cycle may not be well understood the conversion rates at different temps, pH, etc., are well understood, at least to my satisfaction.

It seems they would be interested in the transportation mode of bacterial. They would want the bacteria to survive as it is being transported to the real world application through distributors, outside of their laboratories.
Apparently they are able to store and transport different species because the studies I've read they describe the species, where they got it. But they don't go into details on the behind the scenes stuff. I assume people in that field understand what's involved. Just no reason to publish that.

Obviously, folk swear that transporting mature pond water or used "seeded" filter media from another pond helps to boost the cycling process.
Seems reasonable to me. Would still love to see anyone test this. I'd even take anecdotal. One tank seeded, one tank not, what are the conversion rates? One thing in the back of my head in designing my next pond is building similar structures, sun exposure, etc. There's a lot of tests I would like to try. I did this once with testing algae but I couldn't figure anything out.

Obviously, it is possible since Mother Nature has accomplished a distribution system, that survives extreme climates, even though the reaction is very slow and erratic.
At least Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter live in soil, fresh and sea water. That is a pretty good distribution system. Since these are so common there's every chance the bare liner, being coated in dust, probably has plenty. The dirt from the muddy shoes, potted plants. Makes me wonder how much seeding really helps.
 

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