Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to the wrong facts.

What you are about to read here are excerpts from an old 2011 post taken from a Koi forum. I give my editors comments to the inaccurate post/comments that the hobbyists make about bacteria and the Anoxic filtration system. For hobbyist trying to get to the truth about filtration it becomes a quagmire of misinformation they must waddle through.

I did not add this to my blog to make fun of or belittle anybody; this is only for educational purposes only and should be looked at as a learning experience for the hobbyist.

Dr. Novak

Note: My comments are in Black font.

By: Neli
 Did you mix the laterite and bentonite trough out or U just put the laterite in the middle of the cat litter as he says. Did you do any measurements on the water to see any improvements?
The laterite is encapsulated in the middle of the basket of kitty litter. The kitty litter must be unamended clay only, no substitutions. The filter should be deep, and long. You want at least 18" of water over the surface of the Biocenosis basket. The water must come in one end of the filter, very heavily diffused. The water has to pass over and through the baskets at a slow speed. The longer the dwell time in the filter, the smaller the particulate you can collect. The bottom of the filter should be built on an angle of 10 degrees. A bulkhead and drain should be put on the gravity end. You have to rinse these filters out every so often.

This system works, the science is correct. The fact that Heterotrophic bacteria are being colonized, presents something different. Once you have one Heterotrophic bacterium, it will double in count every hour after that. It can populate a filter quickly. Not very temperature dependent, does not mind being cold. Heterotrophic bacteria consume ammonia & nitrite, but do not give off nitrate.
"all things being equal, the simplest answer tends to be the right one"
By: Lotusman

By: Chris Neaves
Heterotrophic bacteria do not consume ammonia and nitrite - heterotrophic bacteria grow rapidly in the pond and consume or eat the organics. These are your organic munchers. Because of their rapid growth they take up a lot of space in the biofilter and literally shoulder out the nitrifying bacteria. (A good reason to build big filters)!

[Ed: Facultative heterotrophic bacteria do use ammonia and nitrites for their carbon needs and oxygen if that is all that is available to the cells by converting the ammonia ion into nitrites and then nitrates that they use as a thermal electron acceptor for their energy source just like autotrophs do. There are many different kinds of heterotrophic bacteria that reside in our ponds and fall under the umbrella of Microaerophile bacteria and many of these bacteria are also included in freeze-dried starter cultures that you buy at pond stores. In fact heterotrophs will compete for oxygen and food with autotrophs and may outcompete these autotrophic bacteria if conditions are right.

QUOTE from my book: “It can technically be said that no matter what type or size of filtration that most hobbyists use, the microbial population in the filter will be in equilibrium and/or balance with its supply of foodstuffs. However, this is somewhat misleading because in a close recirculating biotope such as our ponds, the overall efficiency of the filter is in relationship to the systems incoming foodstuffs that really counts, not that the microbes themselves in the filter are living together in a balanced state.”

Available foodstuff, space, and oxygen or low oxygen (anoxic conditions) is what will govern if heterotrophic bacteria will overshadow autotrophic bacteria in our filters and this has nothing to do with how big the filter is. In most cases once establish cells of autotrophic bacteria settle on the filter media with meeting their high oxygen requirements then you will have nothing to worry about. It’s only when those conditions are compromised that heterotrophic bacteria will begin to supersede those of autotrophic bacteria like the lack of oxygen or very low oxygen.]

Read more about heterotrophic bacteria competing with nitrifying bacteria in my blog: http://drklnovak.blogspot.com/2013/06/heterotrophic-bacteria-compete-with.html

You can see this in the organic build up in a pond followed by the rise in numbers of the heterotrophic bacteria then a decline in the organics and a consequent decline in these bacteria. The organic build-up in a pond goes in cycles.

[Ed: Organics are those that need to be metabolized by the heterotrophic bacteria like leaves, fish waste, uneaten food, dead worms or anything that needs to be broken down into an inorganic compound.  Inorganic compounds are example: ammonia, hydrogen sulfide and so on, and do not contain carbon as its principal element.

Turning pond water white or hazy is from an overabundance of heterotrophic bacteria not because of organics. I’ve seen ponds, natural and manmade full of organics and they were crystal clear. Usually UV radiation will turn the water back clear again in about 24 hrs., nevertheless the organics are still there. This cloudiness will happen in the beginning when the pond is first set up or an aquarium is new and the autotrophic bacteria are trying to establish themselves because of slower reproduction times compared to heterotrophic bacteria, then the water turns milky white from and overabundance of heterotrophs over autotrophic bacteria, this is called a ‘bacteria bloom’. This is also what causes new pond and/or new-tank-syndrome.

Sometimes with an overzealous cleaning of the pond and filter with a large water change will also trigger this hazy white water look (look at Yogas photos of his pond after a cleaning.), too. This cleaning will kill off too many autotrophic bacteria and the nitrogen cycle is disrupted by the lack of the same.] 

To read more about Yogas’s pond; also make sure you look at photo-4 and see the hazy white look to his water after a complete pond and filter cleaning. This is a heterotrophic bacterium now superseding the autotrophic bacteria. http://drklnovak.blogspot.com/2013/10/everyone-is-entitled-to-their-own.html

Nitrifying bacteria – the group of bacteria that chemically converts ammonia to nitrite to nitrate IN THE PRESENCE OF OXYGEN are the group of bacteria in our ponds responsible for keeping the liquid toxin ammonia excreted by koi down to a very low level.

[Ed: This is true, but also heterotrophic bacteria can do the same in the presents of oxygen, too. Koi do not excrete ammonia but ammonium is excreted in the urine and has a chemical formula of NH4+ and is positively charge ion or a cation and is taken from the waters mass into the Biocenosis baskets directly before it can be metabolized by bacteria into ammonia. Ammonia is from bacteria that make NH3 as a byproduct and has no electrical charge to it and is an easy uptake food source for plants, easier than ammonium. So bacteria make ammonia and our Koi’s make ammonium, does everyone get it now!]

Read more about ammonia reduction in my blog, not just autotrophic bacteria can utilize ammonia for their energy needs: http://drklnovak.blogspot.com/2013/06/many-hobbyists-think-that-reduction-of.html

Nitrifying bacteria grow in colonies called biofilms and adhere to all surfaces. These take time to mature. Once they are mature they are very resilient as the individual bacteria are protected within this biofilm.

[Ed: Biofilms are a self-produced matrix of extracellular polymeric substance and are only created to a substrate or other media to prevent water shearing. It is comprised of living and dying bacteria forming very complex and heterogeneous microbial communities called “biofilms” that makes slime inside pipes and on other media. Biofilms are inherently sticky and can catch micro detritus and then pores in that media will begin to clog. The cells that live on the biofilms are the active cells that create the nitrogen cycle for us. Over time the biofilms can become so thick that clogging of the micro pores is apparent and the media loses more and more of its surface area and inner structural areas for biological activity to take place; therefore chemical mediators are then compromised because of this. Once these micro pores begin to clog, obligated anaerobic heterotrophic bacteria take over because of oxygen depletion and create more ammonia to go back into solution.

 Read more about good and bad biofilms in my blog: http://drklnovak.blogspot.com/2013/06/kevin-why-doesnt-catlitter-become.html

The bacteria are subject to chemical and biological insults that can hinder their activity or stop them all together. Not quite the resilient bacterium that is described above. These insults can range from chemical, temperature dependency, oxygen depredation, carbon availability, even being washed off by force along with pH swings and the biofilms do little to protect them. Biofilms are only a foundation for the bacteria to live on. For example, biofilms are not created in labs but a bacteria friendly media is provided so bacteria can live on.]

In nature nitrates can be reality converted to nitrite and nitrite can be readily converted to nitrate.

It is possible to eliminate nitrate through anaerobic bacteria. These bacteria convert the nitrate into free nitrogen or back to nitrite. Anaerobic bacteria require little or no oxygen. In areas of the pond or filter where organic sludge builds-up you get anaerobic bacteria developing. So while they convert the nitrate they also produce hydrogen sulfide – which is very, very toxic to koi.

[Ed: This is the biggest misconception that hobbyist believes in, that anaerobic bacteria will eliminate NO3 Nitrates and turn it into N2. Assimilatory denitrification by obligate anaerobic heterotrophic bacteria converts’ nitrates in a two-step reduction process into ammonia and no further, not free nitrogen gas like is stated above. It will now take the aerobic nitrifying bacteria to convert the ammonia back to nitrates; this then becomes a never-ending cycle. Organic micro particles build up by sticking to the bacteria’s polymers clogging the filters media. Eliminate the sticky polymers and you eliminate clogging of the filters media.]

This is the reason we continuously harp on the maintenance side of a koi pond. Everyone tries to eliminate pockets of organic build up. Even flow though filters is encouraged, high turnovers are encouraged, additional air is encouraged – the whole pond is directed at been an aerobic environment.

The anoxic filtration system is basically clay in baskets and a plant filter. A sort of controlled gravel bed filter as in aquariums. Both of these needs a lot of maintenance as organics will collect in the roots and the organics and the micro particles will collect in the clay not matter how good the pre-filtration system is. You will have to watch and maintain this type of filter very carefully.

[Ed: The statement above shows that the hobbyist knows very little about how an Anoxic filter works. He now is going to tell everyone how it really works and the similarities to other filtration systems. He states that it’s ‘basically clay’; not specialize manmade heat-treated clay that’s a crystalline structural material whose constituent attracts ions and has the correct porewater size, unlike earthen clays that impede water flow. Once again where're back to calling the Anoxic filter a plant filter to downplay what it really is. If that’s not bad enough, he then tries to say it is nothing more than a gravel bed filter that is susceptible to clogging.

If you have been reading my blog you will see that the Anoxic filter is a low maintenance none clogging filter. Water is never being forced into the Biocenosis baskets so therefore the bacteria do not have to make the polymers to stay in location like conventional filters. No organics or micro particles are drawn into the Biocenosis baskets (hence the good prefilter) only inorganic ions that are electrically charge. Examining the baskets at various stages of their life has proved this. Some Biocenosis baskets are twenty-five years old now and still doing denitrification without anaerobic pockets present or blacking of the media. Each Biocenosis basket is designed so chemical and biological activities are not impeded by allowing water laden with ions to move freely into and out of the media through diffusion.]

The same with under gravel filters – they do work well for some time but the tipping point is very sudden when they become clogged then they can pollute the whole pond.

By the way the massive ponds/water features at the Cascades Hotel at Sun City had 800mm deep gravel beds, designed by an American company, all over the floor. Worked very well – then after a few years it clogged and want anaerobic on a large scale and killed all the fish. The gravel was left in the water features and continued to pollute the water long after the fish had died and some remedial action was taken.

So while our ponds are directed at an aerobic environment the anoxic filter is an anaerobic or stagnant environment. And I wonder if these opposing approaches is worth it in a koi pond. I wonder if it not safer for the average person to keep to the basics and not play around with this type of filter/environment.

[Ed: As we can see this self-proclaimed aquatic microbiologist doesn’t understand what ‘Anoxic’ means and its definition of such. It is not a stagnated anaerobic environment, but a thriving environment, the same that is used throughout the worlds ponds, rivers, lakes, streams and oceans that allows water to pass through it with open cell baskets and without limitations by using conventional percolation means, osmosis, or diffusion of the substrate through electrical charge.

Right away you can tell that he is scared of this technology and shuns it because of the lack of understanding it!  We fear what we don’t understand!  So if you don’t understand the complexity of something, then stay with what is known. As hobbyists we must strive for perfection and sometimes that perfection comes at a price of complicated terminology and technology. I don’t understand computers but I do embrace their complicated technology. If I didn’t how could I watch Netflix over the Internet?]

By: Chris Neaves

By: Happy Koi
Seriously, anoxic filtration is extremely specialized and requires considerably more maintenance through observation if nothing else. IF you have gin clear water feeding your anoxic filter and IF you can keep it that way well and great - go for it. But IF you rely on your organic material to provide your carbon source (you need carbon for these filters) then watch out! The slightest fluctuation can produce dramatic results, and not necessarily positive unless you were wanting a reason to replace your Koi collection anyway.

[Ed: Now here is another hobbyist that has never used the Anoxic filter but already proclaims its high in maintenance once again. It funny how these hobbyists have never used something but they are now the self-proclaimed experts on the subject. I don’t understand what: “through observation if nothing else…” means? What are we observing again?  If you read my blog you will see that the Biocenosis baskets are a producer of carbon and not from an organic source but through and inorganic source in the form of ions, so what are we supposed to be watching out for?

His last line is the one that shows he knows very little about microaerophile bacteria and the role they play in an aquatic environment. Because of the diverse classes of bacteria you now have more different kinds of bacteria to take care of the nitrogen cycle and biological insults. It takes a very stable environment for bacteria to coexist with very little fluctuation in that environment with its oxygen requirements. 

He also makes mention that these filters (meaning the Anoxic filter) need a “carbon source (you need carbon for these filters) then watch out!” What he doesn’t know is the nitrobacteria need an optimum oxygen level, optimum temperature throughout the medium and a diet of ammonia and carbon also! You see how easy it is to go on the Internet and place ones foot in one’s mouth!

 He also makes the statement that: The slightest fluctuation can produce dramatic results, and not necessarily positive.” And this statement is being based on his research into the subject of residual bacteria and its ability to steal food and oxygen from other sources. Unlike Nitrobacter, that when its food and oxygen requirements are not met, then it does not have the capability to steel it from another source, and are not able to enter a dormant state like heterotrophic bacteria, when starved of their energy sources (e.g., nitrite) they die. This inability to become dormant in cold temperatures, coupled with the inability to produce spores and survive oxygen deprivation, has special significance in the bacterial world. They are not as resilient as these two gentlemen think.

‘Replace your Koi collection!’ Some of my Koi are the oldest around in the Chicago area! His last statement is unfounded and he has no scientific foundation to his accusations … he is now making things up and using scare tactics to ward-off hobbyists or belittle them altogether.]

But but but the main reason I distrust and avoid anoxic systems like the plague (can anyone say sand filter? is because of the bacterial profile that builds up within them. You have little to no control over what you are harboring in there - and again the slightest change of water parameters can influence this profile and end up with super nasty’s that add to their nutritional intake by munching on your Koi!

[Ed: Anoxic filters are like sand filters! Really! Sand filter have very poor porewater capabilities and permeability and therefore go anaerobic and blackening of the substrate is their end results. They also are plague with slime algae problems too. These slime algae’s will cover the substrate and trapped gases will get underneath them. Nobody uses sand filters unless they are for polishing water in swimming pools or as a prefilter only for ponds and require back flushing every day or sometimes even more.

When he states: “you have little or no control over what you are harboring in there”: meaning Biocenosis baskets. This statement shows he knows very little about microbiology and what conditions it takes for Anoxic condition to exist and exist it does inside every Biocenosis basket. Each Biocenosis basket is a controlled stable microbial community of ion eaters that are very residual to their environment even in the coldest of weather to the warmest of weather conditions.
Read more about Nitrobacter and cold weather in my blog: 

 The fact is more Koi die and gets sick using conventional systems than Anoxic systems. Now why is that? If you don’t believe me, read your forums and see how many hobbyists are constantly talking about sick Koi. Even Brian Woodcock made the statement on Extreme Koi that this year he had no sick fish or troubles using the Anoxic filter. Conventional filters are very easy to collapse, not so Anoxic filters.]

Whereas with good old fashioned aerobic filtration your biggest hassle in life is a buildup of nitrates. Compared to the alternative, I'll take the nitrates any day and chuck my Viresco (aerobic nitrate munchers) in once every two months or so if I feel it's bothering me or the fishies.

[Ed: I wonder if this hobbyist still drives the same car as they did 60-years ago or maybe he still watches the some old B&W TV sets of 50-years ago. Let’s don’t forget that aircraft used propellers 60-years ago and not the big jumbo jet engines like we have today. Everything that I have mentioned here was around when the ‘good old fashioned’ aerobic filtration systems was used on ponds. But technology has moved on and so should our thinking of pond chemistry.

We have found ways to make use of nitrifying bacteria in smaller spaces (Nexus filters) and the better utilization of that bacterium (drip systems), but without chemicals, technology has hit a brick wall. We now need to add more equipment to our ponds to help the same nitrifying bacteria and filtration systems of yesterday.  How many times are we going to put a Band-Aid on something that keeps costing us more and more with every year passing? The pond equipment today is getting bigger and balkier and still we have sick Koi and water quality problems…Why? Today, good old fashion is not good enough, especially when you have a carbon footprint that you could use your electric meter as a table saw.]  

Now, Costa honey bunch sugar bush, that I have saved you a fortune; can I please have a lap dance? Not for me of course, for a, ummm,... friend?


Hi All

I am still in holiday.....but could not let go of Pieter's forum!

My thoughts on Anoxic filter (as newbie and not used it yet!!!!)
Tree things that became very important to me when finding out of this AF (Anoxic Filter;
1. Do NOT implement the AF if you just want to "try" out a new filter!!!
2. Read VERY carefully through the posts of Chris Neaves!

Chris's concerns are well to be noted for a. Chris has got VERY well and professional knowledge of the filters for keeping koi healthy and for b. the AF is designed to "reverse" Nitrate BACK to Nitrite (poison)!!!

[Ed: The underline statement above is proof that the misinterpretation of the facts can lead hobbyist into thinking that these Internet cyberspace “professionals” are giving them truth in reading, but instead construct nothing but snake-oil hypotheses on what microbiology really is with misinformation.]

Upon reading the article of the AF, I got so excited that I have already designed my new filter at the time I reached reading the MAIN POINT of the filter.

I admit the article is a bit long BUT, YOU HAVE TO READ the WHOLE article to the fullest!
Dr. Novak has truly put A LOT OF WORK into this filter idea (only for the same reason as everybody else....FOR THE SAKE OF HEALTHY KOI!) and the way he describes the "chemical" reaction is just amazing!

One thing I see people getting confused with...the AF is NOT a veggie filter! Also, like already stated, the AF is not there to filter ALL possible waste that there is in your pond.....that’s why I say...read the article!

Thanks Lotusman for your input so far!

But for me, who hasn't implemented the filter as yet, I must just as well keep my mouth shut!
By: KoiXtreme


I am not here to defend the Anoxic filter. I will say that Chris Neaves strikes me as being misinformed about Dr. Novak's filter...especially the science. When I was at UGA for one of the Koi Health Management courses, Dr. Johnson spoke about how heterotrophic bacteria grooms’ water. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but no one is entitled to the wrong facts.
By: Lotusman

I am listening - always willing to learn and always ready to acknowledge mistakes.

[Ed: I’ve known Lotusman far years now and he is always striving to educate himself in Koi heath and aquatic microbiology. But he also knows the Internet can be a Medusa of information so he strives for professionalism first for his information. ]

By: Chris Neaves

Just picked up on something from the Happy Koi Posting - the (whisper it) sand filter (gulp) - so this could well be an Anoxic filter in another suit and a very good and powerful filter at that! Wow I never thought of sand filters in that way!

[Ed: once again read my second to last statement, it applies to this observation also.]


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