Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Greg’s anoxic filtration questions:

Greg’s anoxic filtration questions:
I use to have a couple of cases of plant baskets and gave them away ... dang.

OK, I have read every page of material and have some questions. Some are design questions, alternate configurations ideas, etc.:

Q: "Each biocenosis-basket in the Anoxic Filtration System acts the same way. Ammonium ions checks in, but they will never check out"
What happens to the Ammonium ions in the baskets without plants? Does absorption stop or reach saturation at some point? Is there a rating on each pot as to how many grams or measurement it can absorb? I’m thinking like Activated Carbon here. Doesn't it have to be recharged somehow without a plant?

A: Each biocenosis clarification basket without plants is a microbial and chemical sink unto itself. First, Nitrosomonas bacteria and/or facultative anaerobic heterotrophic bacteria consume ammonia and/or ammonium or as some people like to call it Ammonia-Nitrogen (TAN) that is attracted inside the baskets and all other positive ions that are taken out of solution (that can become an available foodstuff for the bacteria), too. Yes, facultative bacteria can and will convert toxic ammonia and/or ammonium into nitrites then again into nitrate, then again in Dinitrogen N. Therefore, even if the Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter do make toxic ammonia into nitrates, like in other filtration systems they (nitrates) also will be consumed by the facultative bacteria for their carbon needs. Saturation is literally unachievable, because all bacteria will increase or decrease depending on the available foodstuff and that of microbial living space. In astronomical terms, the number of facultative bacteria is quite unbelievable especially in elevated temperatures per mm of space. In colder temperatures, these dimorphic bacteria will be the domination bacteria too, helping your Koi come out of their lethargic state after a long winters rest. In other words, it’s a win, win situation with this bacteria unlike Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter that is useless at temperatures below 55o F (12o C)1.

I can see what you mean by activated carbon and becoming exhausted when its pores are filled. However, each biocenosis basket does not act and does not have the same structure as activated- carbon. The key words here for the kitty litter and Laterite are permeability and porewater capabilities. You must also remember that heterotrophic bacteria are the most abundant bacteria in all ponds, whether natural or otherwise. Even in a brand new system, (like a new pond) heterotrophic bacteria are still in abundance and will start converting hydrocarbons into very toxic ammonia; they never have to be reinoculated and/or inoculated into the system like Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter. Tests have shown that the baskets themselves remain open to microbial and biochemical mediators or processes for years (18-years for some of my baskets) without clogging like conventional filtration system do. I would recommend adding Laterite every ten years or so, just to help bacterial colonies grow better, faster and to replace trace elements, for it (Laterite) may become too exhausted and become useless. Some hobbyists run this system devoid of plants altogether, in dark garages. Remember this is not a veggie filter or bog filtration system like some people think, this is an anoxic system, and it is not plant reliant like those other systems are. Geographical location of the filtration system is also not as stringent as those veggie filters.

Q: Wouldn't the 2 cubic feet of bio-balls use as a diffusion tool harbor the bacterium that converts ammonia to nitrite to nitrate? Especially since they are getting the water before the plant baskets? I would think that with the way the Anoxic system works you would want as little surface area for nitrification as possible.

A: Yes, the bio-balls or whatever medium you use (example: Matala filtration media) for a diffusion system, will convert some of the ammonia into nitrite then nitrates. However, this is something you really can’t avoid. You have to diffuse the water somehow and this is just one way of “skinning the cat” as they say. If you think about it Greg, all over the pond and on your animals this process is unconsciously happening and it’s unstoppable. It is part of the transformation of events that balances out the chemolithotrophic bacterial processes and the anoxic processes. Good thing is; you’re using the biocenosis clarification basket to get rid of the excessive Nitrogen (nitrates) in the system. One bacterium makes it and the other bacterium takes it away, as to say.

Q: Do the baskets need to be in deep water, or will shallow water work just as well? Need shallow water for Iris, Sweet Flag, etc. Otherwise Lilies would be the only plant you could grow?

A: Shallow water will work just fine; only the stability of such will be questionable (temperature change and such). Let’s say you have a 14” deep stream and you placed biocenosis basket in it end to end, this would still work. In fact, it would be great! Picture this if you will. A stream with numerous filtration baskets, some with plants for cosmetic purposes (or all, that’s up to you) and some without, not a bog or veggie filter but a long anoxic filter. Yes, you could use Iris, Sweet flag, Rush, and such. All aquatic plants require the same ammonia and/or ammonium for proteins. Liliaceous will do better in a deeper anoxic system of two feet or more.

Another problem is; that your plants will grow like banshees and you would be cursing me out by years end. You would not believe how efficiently your plants will work for you growing them this way. It is not unusual for the plants to grow roots outside the baskets by years end. Another problem is; you would have to stop the stream twice a year for clean-out! You would have to have a devise that in someway would block the stream somehow, so during clean-out no detritus and mulm would go into the main pond system and contaminate it.

Q: Wouldn't smaller baskets have easier absorption than larger ones or is there a minimum size for it to occur? I’m wondering if some kind of tubes or fabric can be used, picture in your head rolling cigars.

A: That’s a good question, but the baskets, they work off of an electrical charge and diffusion, and a circulatory movement like convection, absorption is not a primary movement of foodstuffs when void of plants. Some hobbyist will use smaller baskets, but that is only for weight purposes not so much so for efficiency of the filtration system. However, you brought up about using tubes. I never thought of that myself, so I can’t say if it would work! It sounds good in theory but then again all theories must be proven out, to become factual.

Q: Would a shallow layer of Kitty litter in a deep stream also work? Say my 14" deep stream, 50' long by 4' wide with 8,000-gph flowing through it. Right now the bottom is lined with golf-ball sized rocks. What would be the effect if I removed the rocks and put down a 3" layer of kitty littler for the plants to grow in? One reason I went to the "soilless" planting method was so the plant roots would get their nutrients directly from the water. Which works great as you can see from the plants growing in my stream, however it does nothing for the Ion attraction. Plants using Nitrate instead of Ammonium as you mention.

A: I can tell you right now the golf ball size rocks are giving you a redox problem right off the bat. It will also cause turbidity problems by causing green algae blooms and/or cyanobacteria problems (blue-green algae). Placing Kitty litter directly on the bottom is a definite no, no. You will be cutting off the intersection of topography as to say (water going in and out of the kitty litter freely, without hindrance) and the system will collapse in a very short time. The Kitty litter that will be sitting on the bottom of the liner will go obligatory anaerobic in a few days and begin to make more ammonia and/ or ammonium and Nitrates that will go back into solution. This is extremely important because ammonium can be recycled in the filter back to nitrate and either or both nitrate and ammonium can diffuse throughout the Kitty litter and Laterite, creating an extremely nutrient-rich filter environment. This is exactly what is happening now with the set up you have. That is one reason your water is staying so green late in the year. If you do as I said in the top question, you definitely would see an improvement in redox and water clarity. What you have now is no better than an Aquascape’s (I hope I spelled that right) filtration system. Look in the CD-book at page-55, I tell all about such filtration systems. By placing your plants in biocenosis clarification baskets like those that I explained in my CD-book, you will see a big difference in plant growth and redox. Remember Greg, getting ammonium and/or ammonia out of the picture before autotrophs can break it down into nitrates will help. Plants like; ammonia not nitrates and will only take nitrates when ammonia is exhausted or near exhaustion.

Q: The plants potted in the baskets get to use the Ammonium...Does that mean the water hyacinths are using Nitrate directly?

A: 75-percent of Water hyacinths – Richornia crassipes and Pistia stratiotes, Water lettuce-uptake is Nitrogen and 25-percent is ammonium. This is one plant, which is an exception to the rule. You must remember that the Liebig Minimum Law governs all aquatic plants and nutrient uptake is governed by that element, which is at a minimum. Cations and Anion must be taken in equal amounts in order avoid a fatal pH swing. Most of the time, Iron seems to be the element that is constantly at a minimum in all ponds except natural systems. Most aquatic plants, work nowhere at peek efficiency with other ways of planting.

Q: Is there a way to get the Ammonium to check out so that floating plants could take advantage of it? Basically asking if there is a different way to do the conversion?

A: You want ammonia to go back in solution and then have plants absorb it? You do not want ammonia and/or ammonium to stay in bulk water any longer than it has to. Aquatic plants are fast but not fast enough for our Koi’s sake. That is why with the Anoxic Filtration System you try to move as much water as possible through the filtration system. The electrical charge is far more efficient attracting the ammonia ion out of bulk water, than ammonia and/or ammonium uptake from plants.

Q: It should be possible to create this anoxic system where in the water is gravity fed through the system, and the pump pumps it up to a waterfall, correct?

A: Yes, you are correct in that assumption.

Q: Would it be possible to create this anoxic system right in the main pond itself? Why the separate chamber? If a pond had a good turnover rate and pots of lilies all over planted in the material, wouldn't the same effect be gained? I’m thinking back to a few years ago when I actually did have kitty litter and lilies in my main pond and my pond seemed healthier? Could I have had an Anoxic system back then and inadvertently removed it?

A: Yes and no, yes, if you made an island and the filtration system was in middle of the island. No, because you would turn you whole pond into a big filter. This filtration system will grow and contain cyanobacteria in it, but the main bulk water should stay free and clear of such. The way I look at it; it’s better to have cyanobacteria in the filter than in ones pond, wouldn’t you agree? Soon as the filtration system starts running at full capacity, the cyanobacteria will subside like magic. In another words, the filter will starve the cyanobacteria out of available foodstuffs. Cyanobacteria are very pragmatic for many hobbyists and this filtration system helps control such but does not eliminate it completely as explained on page-50 of my CD-book. That is why the waterfalls in the pictures, in the CD-book stay and look cleaner than convention filtration system. Containment is the key word here; do not let available foodstuffs (like phosphates) back into bulk water as other system do and does not let nutrient-rich waters (Ammonia-Nitrogen) back into solution ether.

Yes, you almost had an Anoxic Filtration System; but you were missing a key ingredient like Laterite and the open cell baskets, and yes, you unintentionally destroyed it. You planted up your plants with golf ball rocks instead of ammonia attracting kitty litter. The rocks no long attracted the ammonium ion, and your plants, yet looking good, were now doing less work cleaning your pond than before. The anaerobic bacteria at the bottom of your veggie filter in now making its own foodstuffs, like ammonia and nitrates by Assimilatory Denitrification. You’re probably kicking yourself in the butt right now aren’t you?

Q: "that anaerobic conditions will convert nitrogen into a gas element."
Are the bubbles that can be found coming off the pond liner in areas of the pond with poor circulation Hydrogen cyanide?

A: Man, do I love these questions you’re giving me; it shows me you’re on top of things and thinking. The little bubbles (aka: “pearl bubbles” in aquatic botany) are oxygen bubbles from photosynthesizing algae. These bubbles will only form when oxygen is at its peak, or at saturation point of a given temperature. In fact, there is no better way to add oxygen to water-except through an oxygen reactor- which will impregnate water as well as photosynthesizing plants do. That’s why Anacharis gigantea, Cabomba caroliniana and Ceratophyllum demersum plants are all call “oxygenater-plants. You can see the small pearl bubbles coming from the leaves if the water is still enough. In fast moving waters these bubble will usually go unnoticed.

Q: Is Cyanobacteria the cause of hair algae? By eliminating it, I can solve my algae problems? I have tried Barley Straw and Hydrogen Peroxide, they work for a time but it comes back. I say treat the problem not the symptom.

A: Cyanobacteria –AKA: blue-green algae-are the same. Blue-green algae are only classified that way by botanist, but in actuality, it is bacteria, that can make its own foodstuff at its base. Eliminating cyanobacteria is easier said than done. My CD-book tells why.
Okay, the plant filter you are using now is your biggest downfall in fighting cyanobacteria. It is literally a huge chemical sync, and its allowing Nitrates, phosphorus, and phosphates to be dumped back into the main bulk water. You are adding fuel to the fire as to say, those golf ball rocks are beginning too clog and they are now making Nitrates and ammonia. No wonder your plants look so great, you’re feeding them all kinds of food and you didn’t even realize it! Your plants are doing very little work to keep and maintain water clarity. Instead of helping you take ammonia and/or ammonium out of the system, it’s seeing the available nutrients from your gravel and not your pond.
Greg, whatever you do please change your way of thinking, your fish are great, and they deserver better water quality than what you’re giving them. This really makes me mad, that some village-idiot told you to do this, they should have known better.

Q: Doesn't plant roots eventually plug up the kitty litter baskets?

A: If you have that many roots in a basket, you can bet that the plant has done its job for you a thousand fold. It’s telling you: “time for a transplant please!” When a plant becomes root-bound, it then will become stunted, and each exceeding year will get smaller and smaller until its vascular system shuts down and dies. To answer your question: No it does not affect the kitty litter in the slightest; it keeps attracting the positive ions out of your system as it did from day one.

Q: "This settlement will stay undisturbed between the biocenosis-baskets until a later date when it can be disposed of." "Mulm, which is a matter left over after total mineralization has taken place, is inert, and does not affect the water quality any longer" How do I tell the difference between Mulm and Poop? How often is this dumped? Wouldn't bacteria be at work in this sludge? I dumped my filter pit last night; I was ankle deep in a 4x8 pit of brown sludge. Full of leeches, bloodworms, snails, etc.

A: I’m very pragmatic about really good too excellent pre-filter before any filtration system. It is paramount in keeping any filtration system clean and healthy. I cannot emphasize this one thing to the hobbyists any stronger if I tried. A good pre-filter will cut down on considerable amounts of fish waste, food, algae, and plant matter. It has been proven in saltwater system that cleaning the pre-filter before filtration takes place will keep redox at its highest point with very little outlay. It is no different in our ponds; it has been scientifically proven that; filters stay cleaner and healthier with good pre- filtration. The key word here is: healthier. What makes it through the pre-filter, which is organic matter, now, will settle and mineralization will take place by the microbial flora. As you know this then become ammonia and/or ammonium and must be taken care of by the filtration system. Think of this; the ammonia ion (DOC) is being made in the filtration system were the biocenosis clarification baskets can immediately take care of it as positive ions, plus any negative ions that cross the electrical gradient by diffusion. The thing you must remember about this system in opposition to other systems. The baskets themselves are a constituent of the filtration system inner workings, but not the filtration system itself. However, as it (detritus) keeps breaking down it them becomes mulm.

With the Anoxic systems set up the way I say to set it up in my CD-book, this detritus/mulm and don’t forget smuts too, will not compact as greatly as a conventional filtration system does. Remember all this is not being forced into a filtering material as such. This is exactly what happen in a natural system, and guess what, this layer of detritus become negatively charge just like the baskets are. This then will also attract the positive ions and do the same things as the baskets do. Nevertheless, as we all know this settlement must be taken care of eventually, and that is why I highly recommend at least two filter clean-outs a year.

1: Nitrosomonas can become dormant when starved of ammonia under otherwise ideal environmental conditions. They also have the ability to go dormant in cold-water conditions. However, both Nitrosomonas and Nitrobacter will still be working in the wintertime to some degree, and that degree is contingent upon the condition of the filtration system, its size, and available foodstuff. I understand we like to compare our pond filtration systems to sewage treatment facilities. Nevertheless, our filtration systems are dwarf by comparison, to such high-tech-systems.

Nitrobacter do not have this ability to enter a dormant state when starved of their energy sources (e.g., nitrite). When starved, they die. This inability to become dormant, coupled with the inability to produce spores and survive oxygen deprivation, has special importance to the pond hobbyist.

While Nitrobacter can derive all the energy they require from the oxidation of nitrite into nitrate, they will use other sources if available. They can oxidize complex hydrocarbons just like the more common Heterotrophic bacteria; Nitrosomonas cannot, and are dependent on ammonia only. This ability explains why Nitrobacter did not evolve the ability to become dormant.

We as hobbyist must also must remember that in the wintertime most filtration system are closed down, shut off from all available foodstuffs, and oxygen deprivation will take care of (killing off) altogether our beneficial bacteria. The only surviving bacteria will be that which is left in the ponds bulk water. However, these bacteria will now be in very limited supply, only because of lack of available surface area that the filtration system itself provided.

Some hobbyist will clean their filtration systems in early spring without the inoculation of such bacteria. Their system will seem to take forever to become fully active, do to the cold water conditions alone can hinder this cycling. Now you must add on your animal load and the ammonium that is being produced by feeding, along with their increased metabolic rate. Koi can (and will) feed in such cold temperatures. Algae and available plant matter will be their fist food sources. I live in Chicago were the weather here is very erratic during this time of the year. It is not unusual for my fish to be feeding once or twice a day, do to their increased activity once the filter is back on line.

That is why with the Anoxic Filtration System you start it when the weather breaks, as long as freezing will not hinder your outlet from the filter to pond. This is typically in late winter or sooner if possible. That is because the biocenosis-clarification-baskets and any plants you my have are already working taking in the ammonium ions out of bulk water. Why other systems are barely on line, this system is already taking in ammonium ions for Heterotrophic bacteria and for Nitrobacter and Nitrosomonas. Oxygen is never exhausted when the filtration system is shut down for the winter because of anion producer such as microbial and/or aggregate produce enough oxygen to engage or attract the carbon dioxide and that will move cations, releasing the oxygen and consequently making the baskets more aerobic. As long as the baskets stay aerobic to some degree, that will hinder the production of obligatory anaerobic bacteria.

I know what I have just said is not really anything news breaking, but I don’t understand why we forsaken such technology for the latter? After all, you can buy a bag of WalMart Kitty litter for about two bucks. It comes in a red and black bag of plain cat litter, no additives, and just plain clay. (Only use clay –Attapulgite-that has been mined from the earth, clean, baked, and pulverized such as Kitty litter.)
I will also add right now that the footprint of the Anoxic filter is not small. This is done for a purpose. Imitation sewage treatment facilities and/or a car engine: There is no substitution for cubic inches when it comes to filtration systems or horsepower.

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