Thursday, February 26, 2015

I just wanted to make a comment on something I seen on Google Plus about bacteria.

The link below is from a Dr. Franco in Italy. He did an experiment with adding two small BCB (Biocenosis Clarification Baskets) to a 700-liter aquarium that had a Nitrate (NO3) reading of 60-ppm and a PO4 (phosphates) reading .75-1.0 ppm.

I just wanted to make a comment on something I seen on Google Plus. I’m also going to leave out any name(s) and the specifics of what the person was talking about…meaning pond or aquarium.

Basically they said that periodically you must add a bacteria inoculator to your system to keep it clean and running right. This goes for ponds and/or aquariums. Please be aware that not all bacteria in a bottle are created equal and are not as effective as some may think.  Read about 11 commercial products tested claiming to contain bacteria that will facilitate in the conversion of toxic ammonia to not as toxic Nitrates.

Bacteria depend upon available foodstuff, the volume and compensation of incoming nutrients and the health, condition, and type of substrate used. In other word, bacteria will increase or decrease depending on food availability, carbon, oxygen and the medium used.

Carbon availability for autotrophs, or those bacteria that utilize light and carbon dioxide to carry out their biological processes and can quickly use an abundance of inorganic carbon. Heterotrophs are mostly responsible for breaking down organic matter and thrive in areas where diffusion abounds and where organic carbon is well cycled. It is also a fact that mediating biochemical transformations (protein/enzymes) and genetic controls (DNA/RNA) show a common reliance on specific ratios (called: Redfield Ratio) of carbon (DOC), nitrogen (DON), and phosphorus (DOP). It could then be said organic carbon is a major player in how well inorganic nutrients, example, nitrogen and phosphorus, are utilized.

Evidence suggests that when heterotrophic bacteria exist at below their full degree or extent by both organic carbon and mineral nutrients, they have a negative impact on their trophic neighbors in the microbial food network. In other words, if they suffer, it appears to negatively affect neighboring processes. Nevertheless, nitrogen is generally the primary limiting nutrient in our systems because it controls the rate of primary production. If the system is supplied with high levels of “nitrogen,” then algal blooms will generally occur.

   Whether organic carbon is cycled or stored, it appears to be a matter that relates to how the substrate used supplies heterotrophic and autotrophs their essential foodstuffs. In fact, it has been shown that when only an organic carbon source is added, autotrophs are out competed by heterotrophs for inorganic nutrients, demonstrating a need for the corresponding nitrogen. If inorganic nutrients are only added, autotrophs will increase, such as cyanobacteria. Therefore, the ratio between carbon and nitrogen and that of phosphorus are very important factors when facilitating population densities of either bacterium. The substrate along with where diffusion abounds (Like that of a plenum.) is the most critical player, are very efficient at cycling organic carbon so as to balance the ratio of available constituents.

It is only when microbial communities collapse that any hobbyist would or need to add any kind of bacteria supplement to any freshwater or saltwater system. If for some reason the ecosystem does collapse and need a supplement then the hobbyist must find out why the systems foundation for incorporating important biological pathways closed to chemical mediators and not just add a Band-Aid to the system. Band-Aid’s do not fix problems they only cover them up.

So, before you spend your expendable income on needless bacteria cultures, investigate why you need the cultures in the first place and fix the problem. There is a lot of ‘snake-oil’ out there and anyone can get talked into buying them.

A word of admonition to the hobbyists: Do you remember the first time someone chorused you and stole money from you under the pretense of commerce? For most people being taken from ones wealth is a practice that will happen more than once during their lifetime. Several years ago, I bought a commercially available nitrifying product from a well-known manufacturer that also professionally installs ponds. The bottles labeled stated that it would remove unwanted sludge from the pond and the ponds filter. When I opened the bottle, it was very pungent and smelled like hydrogen sulfide (rotten eggs); to my surprise, all the bottles on the shelves smelled exactly the same way. I then bought one of the bottles to do some experimental studies; before any experimentation was to be conducted, I contacted the manufacture to speak to a microbiologist on what exactly were the particular bacteria that is contained in their product. I had introduced myself to the receptionist so she would not think this was some kind of prank call. Despite numerous phone calls, no one ever contacted me, to explain anything about their product.

   Without knowing, the exact bacteria / bacterium content of this particular bottle (I did know one thing; it was not microaerophile in nature), I conducted some studies to determine the efficiency of this commercially available product. The amount of product added to the filter based on the manufacture’s labeled directions and administered accordingly.

The results determined this product to be unsuccessful in its claims at removing any sludge from the pond and/or filter. I can only imagine how many products are on shelves that are being sold to the hobbyists that are inadequate and do absolutely nothing for the betterment of the hobby. These products are nothing more than ephemera placebos designed to make the hobbyists believe that they have done something good, when in reality; they have done nothing at all for the betterment of their pond or aquatic animals.

   Marketing departments have become very clever at dodgery and telling half-truths. Even at making up impressive-sounding but meaningless jargon to sell what is often nothing more than snake oil. A hobbyist pond is a singularly inappropriate Beta-test site for products a manufacturer has not fully R&D’d themselves. Our ponds are not the proving grounds for new products that may have teething problems. It now borders a hobbyist on the behavior nearer to that of a test-consultant than a pond-hobbyist. We succinctly define the responsibilities of a manufacturer of pond products: First, to be able to make a worthy product. Second, to be able to make it consistently and reliably. Each is as important as the other is, and both are relevant to the consumer, not just the first.

   We hobbyists like to believe it is all about the aquatic animals health, safety, and well-being, but when manufactures become inebriated with cupidity and lie their way into our pocketbooks; it is then obvious that it is really all about the Benjamin's. Innovation has been the growth engine of this hobby from the very beginning, on both the aquatic animals and the hardware sides. However, history has taught us that big firms, if left to their own devices, can also stifle innovation. It is like a moment of creation at one end of the line and a perversion of intent at the other. It is really too bad that there is not a “Consumer Reports®” that hobbyist can read and use as a guideline about products that are being made and sold for this particular pastime. Unfortunately, there is not; do to the fact of people having liticaphobia (the fear of lawsuits). I know the indignation and bemusement hobbyist must feel over this whole thing, but learning the truth about that better mousetrap will never become a reality.

   However, in the pond/aquarium hobby there are profits to be made by those who would prey on the ignorant. I think everyone can remember the famous words that the spirit of Christmas present said to Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ classic 1843 novel — A Christmas Carol. “Beware of these two children, this boy is ignorance, this girl is want, most of all beware of this boy.” In a hobby like ours, we should never let ourselves befall to that boy of ignorance. However, unfortunately it has almost come down to the point were hobbyists need to have at least a B.S. degree in Microbiology and in Biochemistry to make an astute purchase. These products known more as essentially, Lysenko’s methodology 1: “Avoid verification,” and should be avoided at all cost. Unfortunately, for the hobbyists he or she will never know until they buy the product about its defalcations; then for themselves find out what it does or does not do.
[ Read what David A. hast to says on the subject matter on filters and the misleading information manufactures give on their capabilities.-Ed.]

1:  Trofim D. Lysenko was a Soviet agronomist, active between 1929 and 1965,
Who attempted to annihilate the science of genetics in the Soviet Union using tactics of pseudoscience combined with unrelenting attacks on accepting scientific theory.

Dr. Novak

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

NO3 down to 5-ppm in Leiarius Pictus catfish 1300-gallon tank using an Anoxic Filtration System.

Hello Kevin,

I wanted to update you on my anoxic filter. It's keeping the nitrates at less than 5-ppm, which is fantastic. The catfish still has the fin deterioration despite the best food products available that cover everything that has been reported to be deficient in nutritional causes of fin degeneration. The fin deterioration has really not been progressive in fact for one week some of the fin grew back and that too has not deteriorated. Despite the fact the damage is a smooth half circle in shape in between some of the rays without raggedness or erythema I am thinking its bacterial although it has not been responsive to antibiotics in the past. I have used strong UV in the past with out results with this problem. I am considering ozone under the guidance of an ozone expert at Pentair Aquatic Eco-Systems. Do you have any experience or thoughts regarding this? It would be set up so the anoxic filter would be the last thing the ozone hits if it wasn't totally exhausted anyway by that point.

     Thanks, Jeff
Sent from my iPad 

Wow! That’s great to hear, and of course it’s great to hear from you too. NO3 of 5-ppm …I could do that all day. Your Leiarius Pictus catfish may not be healing because it’s just stressed out being in captivity. ParanĂ¡’s really do not take captivity very well either. Not until they get into big 400-600 gal tanks do they show the same characteristics as the wild ones do. Then instead of sitting around like slugs, they swim around the tank like other fish do and school.

I’m very familiar with Ozone generators and the use of ozone in ponds, saltwater system and fresh water systems too. They are not cheap but do work quite well keeping the bacteria count down low and redox high. But before you expend your wherewithal’s on the use of ozone, first do a bacteria count check with one of the kits they sell. This then will tell you if you have an overabundance of free bacteria cells in your system. If not then bacteria is not the problem.

Sometimes the catfishes diet is wrong or missing the right vitamins and a vitamin supplement is needed. Have you tried supplementing the fishes diet with some vitamins in its food?

 Also ground your tanks water to earth so no stray electrical mV will not bother it. They sell Titanium grounding probes for saltwater system it may be good idea for you to do the same. Very long finfish are prone skin irritations to even the smallest of electrical voltage in their systems.

Just make sure when you use ozone that you use a redox meter as well. Ozone is a very good oxidizer and will raise redox way above the safe limits for your Leiarius catfish. From my understand; these Sailfin catfish always have this problem in captivity and unknown stress may be the cause and not bacteria.
Leiarius Pictus catfish can grow to over 24". Photo taken from internet.

To read more about Jeff’s 1300-gallon multi tank system for his tropical fish (Leiarius Pictus catfish), click the link below.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Not pond related but still informative information about building an Anoxic filtration for aquariums.

Not pond related but still informative information about building an Anoxic filtration for aquariums.

A while ago I posted something on plenums, that their use in the aquarium is an essential part of the biological filters stability. The name of the article was: Placing gravel on the bottom of your aquarium is so 1960ds.
It really doesn’t matter if you are going to set up a Dutch Planted Aquarium or if you’re going to forgo plants altogether and use artificial plants. A plenum under the gravel substrate is the only way to go for optimum biological filtration.

Click on the link below to read about an experiment conducted by university students and myself, which proves if water cannot move freely throughout the substrate then anaerobic condition will predominate.

Plenums serve two purposes, one; they can have an effect on the reduction of Nitrates NO3 by negatively charging the substrate and keeping algae at bay by Dissimulative Denitrification. Two; they prevent the dreaded anaerobic situation that begins when oxygen is deprive from aerobic bacteria and favors that of anaerobic bacteria. This in turn will start what is called Assimilatory Denitrification and only make more ammonium ions that will go back into solution once again.

Remember, a negatively charged substrate attracts positive ions like ammonium; these ions facilitate aerobic bacteria and facultative bacteria. Facultative bacteria has the ability to reduce the ammonium ion into Nitrates which it will then use its oxygen (Because it has three molecules of oxygen attached to one molecule of Nitrogen) and turn it into N2 known as Dinitrogen. This ability for the substrate to do this is because of the plenum: Which allows water to flow very slowly in and out of the substrate encompassing needed oxygenated water but never allowing it to become depleted of such.

Inside the plenum redox always stays in the high mV values and never allows oxygen to dip below .5 ppm and stay in what is called an Anoxic State. Anoxic condition only means that oxygen is at 2-.5 ppm but not void of oxygen altogether. Without the plenum the substrate even with thriving plant life will turn black from anaerobic bacteria.

There are three ways of bring oxygenated water into the substrate. One, by moving water through the medium with airlift tubes or a mechanical power source like a power head. But now you will have turned your undergravel filter into a mechanical filter too.

Two, through heating cables laid on the bottom of the aquarium this intern will cause thermal convection. The trouble with this method is it only works in the colder winter months and not in the summer months when the ambient air temperature in the home is warmer. Plus, the cables may malfunction like they have on me and overheat the aquarium.

Three, with a plenum that becomes eclectically charged inside the plenum itself and then through diffusion of ions will bring water into the substrate as needed. Plants will not do this with their root systems alone. This slow diffusion of water, oxygen and molecule interface will aid in plant root oxygenation and bacteria growth. You have a better chance of avoiding dead zones and bad microorganisms’ growth populations turning the substrate black from fermentation.

The undergravel filter I use is from TopFin at Pet Smart. The box in the photo cost about $10 USD and comes with 14 black grid panels that are easily fastened together. They also have a larger box with 24 grid panels for larger tanks.

All you have to do is snap the panels together in the size you need and place on the bottom of the aquarium. Add the substrate to within ¾-1" on top of the grids, add some Laterite evenly over the gravel, and then add the rest of your gravel. It couldn’t be any easier! So why do so many hobbyists forgo this very easy way of bringing oxygenated water into the substrate? They still keep insisting on placing the gravel right on top of the glass bottom of the aquarium, now the intersection of topography is gone…like this is the right way to do it! What is so hard to understand about this simple process?

The next photos will give you a pictorial account of how to set up an aquarium with gravel, Laterite on top of the undergravel grid panels. This will work for freshwater or salt-water aquariums. In the salt-water aquarium you forgo the Laterite.

Kevin Novak Ph.D.

Supplies needed…

UG plates are kept away from the front glass for cosmetic reasons.

Adding first layer of gravel ¾-1” deep…

Good old standby…

Add Laterite evenly over the top of the gravel…

Now add remanding gravel on top of the Laterite and you’re done. Good for aquariums but not so ponds.

Reprint of article that I posted:

Placing gravel on the bottom of your aquarium is so 1960ds.

Even though this article (below) by me was written for ponds it also pigeonholes aquariums too. If you place any gravel at the bottom of an aquarium and think it is okay to do so…think again. Times have change and science now tells us differently.

 Just substitute the word pond in this articles for aquarium and it all fits.

Some hobbyists will even go as far as making their whole pond into a huge biological filter by placing rocks, gravel, and small stones on the bottom of their ponds. The same is true for what happens with this way of filtering, as with any other type. The stones will begin to clog with smut, dead Algae, and detritus. Ammonium producing anaerobic bacteria will begin to leach ammonia ions upwards out of the substrate into solution. Algae then will use this as a food source for this is a nutrient of prime importance or it has to be converted back into nitrates by the aerobic nitrification bacteria. Nevertheless, as you can see, that the pond will be plagued with the same problems as submergence filtration systems have with clogging and producing more ammonia/ammonium. 

Now let’s use this as an example or a good analogy of how the above method of biological filtration doesn’t work like it’s supposed to. Let us say you wanted to have a natural pond, and you wanted to cutout a section of X amount of gallons from biotope in a forest preserve. You then cut out this section in this biotope and placed a liner underneath it and then had it dropped into a hole in your backyard. You would think you would have the perfect scenario! Unfortunately, you would not, because once you put the liner underneath that extracted natural ecosystem you interfered with the intersection of topography, which ground water is going constantly into and out of the water body proper at the interface of the ground and water surface. The liner has cut off the movement of water through the soil or in this situation the rocks and gravel substrate. The soil substrate/roots/water interface is of tremendous importance and is now disrupted by the ponds liner. Natural ponds constantly have water moving in an out of them on a continuous basis. This is not just from the top to bottom movement but from horizontal and vertical directions as well.   

Unlike our ponds that are closed recirculating systems, natural ponds are open systems to topography and are not plagued with the same ammonia/ammonium ion producing problems. Therefore, with all that we now know, how can one solve this filtration dilemma?  

The quest to solve, this frustrating problem started me on a systematic investigation that took over sixteen years of research. Yes, I did R&D on this Anoxic Filtration system far over 16-years before it was made publicly known. The answer is not quite as simple as one would think and a great amount of scientific research was implemented in overcoming many common problems filtration systems are plague with. Is this the Holy Grail of pond filtration? Maybe not, but it is as close to it with what is known by science today. 

As the old saying goes: “If you build a better mouse trap people will buy it!” First, biophysical rules for the Anoxic filtration are different from that of filtration systems most hobbyists use in their ponds today. In the filtration systems hobbyist use, the overall efficiency of the filter is in relation to the filters-incoming foodstuff. Nutrients flux of incoming nitrogen reacts differently to levels of nitrates in the system that is if microbial mediators are in equilibrium with each other. If excess should occur, there may be a lack of balance of useful microbial mediators. This will occur when clogging of the filter medium is present or when oxygen concentrations are high in bulk water. 

 The Anoxic Filtration filter media having more anoxic and less anaerobic volume area where more efficient facultative anaerobic bacteria exist will be able to respond extemporaneously to the nutrients flux more efficiently than conventional filters do. The fact is that when glucose is randomly added to these facultative anaerobes they have an Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) yield of approximately 34 times that of anaerobic heterotrophs that are present in clogged filters or gravel bed filters. 

Adenosine Triphosphate s corresponds to the speed and efficiency nutrients can be reduced to make energy. Organic carbons do not limit these bacteria and mineral nutrients as heterotrophic bacteria are, which will have a negative impact on other chemolithotrophic processes. With the Anoxic Filtration System, biochemical pathways are always open and never clog. The oxic–anoxic interface microbial processing is the principal processing, controlling electrons flowing from organic matter to oxygen in molecular diffusion. This filter also has a diffusion of nutrients through it influenced by electrical charge. The filters Biocenosis-baskets are negative mV. Moreover, in the pond are many charged molecules, which most are positive mV. 

The more positive nutrients are naturally attracted to the filter Biocenosis-baskets that are then used by facultative anaerobes. These bacteria are thirty times more efficient than bacteria in oxygen free zones, make better use of phosphorus and only trace amounts of phosphates. Reducing nitrates back into gas elements, (Dinitrogen [N2] is called Dissimulative Denitrification.  

Making up Biocenosis-baskets for the Anoxic filtration and plants is really quite simple. The supplies you will need are large planting baskets (11" x 11" x 7" or 14" x 14" x 10"), kitty litter 10 (with no additives just plain baked processed clay), and Laterite that will be added to the substrate. Laterite is a highly weathered remnant of volcanic rock (weathering implies exposure to tropical temperatures, precipitation and forest derived humic acids over geologic time) but is not a fertilizer and is very rich in Iron and Manganese (iron is needed for plants to make chlorophyll). Taking an open cell plant basket and then fill it with Kitty litter make sure you leave a small impression in the center of the basket but this however is not mandatory it can be mixed up in the center of each Biocenosis basket, too. Take about one cup for smaller baskets and one and a half cups for larger baskets of Laterite and pouring it into the center of the basket then mixing the Kitty litter and the Laterite in the center of the basket. Now place only one layer of pond pebbles on top: This is to keep the Kitty litter from floating up after submerging it into the pond or being blown off during maintenance. Instead of using pond pebbles, you can substitute a black craft canvas/screen on top and wire-tie it to the basket. 

The Laterite will help the bacteria grow in its early stages; then once the bacteria become established it will be less dependent upon the iron in the Laterite for growth. Yet in the years to come it is still very important to maintain the Laterite concentration at all times so about every five to seven years you may have to add more to the Biocenosis baskets without plants and those with plants will be governed by the plants growth rate. The good thing about the Biocenosis basket is it will take years before clogging with organic matter (it may take 25 years or longer). You will use the same procedure for the planted Biocenosis baskets, but you will not use the black craft canvas on top of this basket only the pond pebbles with the addition of an aquatic plant of your choosing. 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Just thought I would share some photos of our 18 inches of snow that fell in one day this year.

Here are some nice wintery photos of my pond and back yard after 18" (45.72cm) of snow fell in Chicago the other day. I sure hope that Groundhog is right, and we have an early spring!