Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Important: New problem in the UK in getting Laterite for their Anoxic Filtration System.

Hi Kevin,

 I have been trying to source some Laterite here in the UK and guess what everywhere is sold out and not restocking due to poor sales, is there an alternative? 

Regards Brian

Hi Brian,

There is another product you can use instead of Laterite if it is not available in the UK for the BCB; it’s called Ironite a soluble Mineral Iron granule supplement and it’s sold at hardware stores here in the US and a 40-lb bag will set you back $18.67 here.

It must be contained in a nylon stocking though and may cloud pond water for a day or two but don’t worry it will clear up. Look at the link below and Shelly will show you how to pack up each small Ironite bag to be placed in the BCB’s center. You only need half as much as the Laterite though.

Here is a link below so you can see if you have anything like this being sold in the UK.

Here is another product that can be used that is very obtainable in the UK called JBL Aquabasis Plus, 5l. Perfect as a replacement for that hard to find Laterite.

JBL Aquabasis Plus a good replacement for Laterite.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

A question from a UK Koi forum about blanket weed and why is it gone now without chemicals?

A week back I noticed I had the beginnings of a blanket weed problem I had strings of it forming in the main pond over 3 inches long and one area around the anoxic baskets things were looking quite clogged with matts of the stuff forming. I thought I had better get the CBA in before things got out of hand.

I have been struggling all week with piles of grot in the cetus sieve - if you don't clear it out at least once a day it blocks the sieve up - its not the green slimy stuff I had last year after treating with CBA but blackish and more granular. Today I looked in the pond and the blanket weed is gone. Well done CBA I here you say - BUT the thing is, I never actually got round to dosing it - It went all by itself!

Any ideas why? Anyone else had this happen?

Okay, I’m going to give you some insight on the whys and how’s about the AFS and bacteria. A cyanobacterium grows in the AFS because it is one of the only bacteria’s that can take Nitrogen from the dinitrogen (N2) process directly from an aqueous solution and the atmosphere. The BCB’s through microbial facilitated processes begin to covert nitrates through denitrification processes by now making Nitrogen (N2) inside the BCB. This molecular nitrogen (N2) as it starts leaching out of the BCB’s now becomes a foodstuff for the cyanobacteria or blanket weed as you call it. This now explains why the AFS gets full of blanket weed because of N2 containment of the foodstuff that would other whys go back into the aqueous solution and/or atmosphere of our ponds if it didn’t have a containment vessel of some kind, like the box (AKA: Anoxic Filter) you built to hold the BCB’s. Those small innocuous pond pebbles or that black screen that you placed on top of the baskets now becomes a means or holding ecosystem for the cyanobacteria to consume N2 on. 

However, even when the N2 is exhausted the cyanobacteria can make its own foodstuff, so now it can become independent of the N2 being produced by the BCB’s. A conventional filter doesn’t have this capability to contain its byproducts and your pond therefore becomes its containment department. This would explain why this bacteria or blanket weed grows all over the main pond. Waterfalls become a nesting ground because cyanobacteria can take atmospheric nitrogen as a foodsource and anything else that is being expelled from the waterfall too.

Now the magic begins! The bacterium inside the BCB starts making antibodies as the weather warms up. These antibodies are not blanket weed friendly and soon little by little the blanket weed starts breaking down and dyeing. The hobbyist can physically see this, by their prefilter(s) beginning to clog up with this blanket weed that has broken apart from its holding base. There is no set rule on when this will happen or exactly at what temperature the blanket weed will dye. Depending on the parameters of the filter and/or pond the situation will be determine by the facilitating bacteria and there is really no way of speeding up this process. It’s like the same principle as Barley straw does with making hydrogen peroxide by bacteria breaking it down, but you’re using bacteria to fight another bacterium inside the AFS. Plants also do the same thing with each other, if they don’t like a plant that’s near them; they try and kill it off.

Once again this is not a perfect system because there can be more microbial producers of a byproduct than users and this then will cause an imbalance in the system. This change can happen because of excess foods with phosphates, temperature, even overcrowding of the water body with too much fish mass to water availability. Even microbial availability is subjective when it comes to an AFS and other filters. An AFS can sometimes starve a conventional filter of its foodstuff if all parameter become ideal for the trilliums of cells in the BCB’s. Adding plants to a BCB can have this same affect also by taking in ammonia directly into its cells along with eradicate some germs too. This then explains why your Bead filter medium is cleaner now than in previous years. Cells will only grow according to the available foodstuff that is presented to them in bulk water. If the available foodsource is gone then so will the bacteria vanish, too!

The three photos show before and after pictures of how cyanobacteria looks and is there one day and gone the next.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Just trying to expand the information chain with also trying to debunk some of the bad information that is on the Internet.

Hey, Kevin who are you quoting when doing these posts? haha, I have always wondered. Good information nonetheless, but how many people really ever experience these die offs of fish or hydrogen sulfide being produced etc... I guess it does happen because people always seem to talk about it, but I have never had issues and have never heard of anyone close to me ever have their a tank crash.
As well, these are all true for the bacteria, but one cannot ignore what plants do to the system and that some plants do not like O2 touching their root hairs, while other produce the O2. Tom Barr did tons of studies and found that the optimum nutrient exchange/O2 circulation within the substrate is that of a natural one, what does he mean, one with just soil or Aquasoil, no need for heating cables, not need for laterite or power sand and definitely no need for undergravel filters, he did experiments with reverse undergravels and found the REDOX areas shaped themselves like the shape of an egg box, areas of lower and higher REDOX,  as well I have heard other scientists say that you do want some anaerobic areas, so is this true, so they can strip the O off of the nitrate, and I know some must be converted back to ammonia, but in the presence of plants and high CEC Aquasoils it will be quickly taken up by the roots or chelated for later, then the roots release CO2 and the H+ trades spots with the chelated basic nutrient like K.

So my whole point is that I have an article that Tom Barr sent me talking about how bacteria " the biofilm" as well as the plants themselves determine a healthy environment, not just the bacteria, and that the plants play a huge role and will manipulate their surroundings to more than ideal. I am sure what you are saying is true, you are the Professor , but I think there needs to be more emphasis on what plants are capable of doing to the substrate. I use Aquasoils which are high in humates and baked with high CEC clays, so you have the best of both worlds when using Aquasoil. Humates have even more CEC/AEC than the clay, but you have the clay for helping to keep the pellet shape and it aids, I am sure, in nutrient exchange, similar to laterite, as well as trapping all colloidal particles making for crystal clear water, and it is very light and allows for good oxygen exchange at the water column/substrate interface. And the pellet shape helps against compaction.

Anyhow, I have never worried about bacteria and have always had very good success with African Cichlids and planted aquariums. I figure that for the most part the bacteria and the plants will manipulate their surroundings just like they do in nature, but you cannot ignore what the plants do to the system. Tom's studies show that power sand, heating cables and laterite are not necessary and he was actually getting the best readings of exchange rates and whatever else you scientists do with just plain dirt in his tank.
Is he just way off? I want to keep an open mind, but Tom is a pretty big heavy weight in the hobby. Any advice or info would be appreciated and here is a link to the article. Maybe you could help clarify.



Hi Dave,

Excellent letter… not quoting anyone except myself on these informative posts, the same is on my blog. Just trying to expand the information chain with also trying to debunk some of the bad information that is on the Internet.

If you have read any of my post you will see that I highly recommend a plenum for diffusion of ions and water movement through the substrate. I see too many YouTube videos that show the wrong way of doing things and people need to know that it is wrong and within a year sometimes a little longer that tank(s) do “crash”. I have seen many and I also have replicated this crash in tanks myself at home and in the lab. Of course the definition of crash will have to be defined because what becomes a crash to some may be just a nuisance to others.

When you talk about optimum nutrient exchange and oxygen penetration into the substrate like that of a “Natural system”; if ions are not allowed to go into and out of the substrate without hindrance then we are talking only about closed systems and not the working of a natural system where the substrate is electrically charged.  When redox is in the shape of an egg in the substrate then your system is a closed one and those pockets of higher and lower redox prove that the ion exchange is being hindered or you have pockets of oxygen depletion happening. In a plenum the redox stays at a neutral redox throughout the bottom and does not change or have pockets.

No it is not and I will emphasize this right now, no it is NOT good to have “anaerobic zones in a closed system, this is not good. The reason is the obligated anaerobic bacteria only make more ammonia/ammonium ions and that’s it. Microbiologist know better than to say ‘anaerobic zones” in any aquarium is good thing. Anoxic conditions are desired and nothing below that as far as oxygen depletion is concerned. That way you will have facultative anaerobic bacteria that will take oxygen from nitrates NO3 if need be and not the ammonia making obligated anaerobic bacteria that will leach the ammonium ion back into solution once again. Is this really what you want?  Please click on the link below and follow it to Syd’s Internet site.

This article will open up you eyes to the truth and all that misinformation that is out there in cyberspace will be debunked for you.

Bacteria trying to hold on to a moving media by polymeric adhesive create Biofilm and this adhesive is made up of living and dying cells. In an anoxic system like the one I have invented, the cells do not have to make this biofilm that clogs filter media microspores and they go on about doing what they are suppose to do and that is eat, multiply and take care of the nitrogen cycle.

If you or anyone can create an environment that is stable, and remember this is the key word here is stable environment in a substrate and it is in an Anoxic state at all times, then plants will become secondary in the biological process of the microbial world. Plants are not as dependable as you may think. There are many variables that can and will change the way plants takes up and utilize ions and when. I do not want people to thinks that just because they use plants that they and not the substrates bacterium will save the day in their tanks and ponds…they will not! It will take more plants than most hobbyist know, to do the job of determining a healthy environment.

The fact is if you don’t get the substrate right the first time, then everything from then on will only have to work harder to correct ones mistakes.

Yes, you are exceedingly correct in saying what plants can do an their benefits in the closed system and that cannot be emphasized enough. However, depending on plants alone will not bring about success for everyone in the aquarium hobby or pond hobby, what people need is a constant that anyone can repeatability do, not just some and not just those with all the CO2 equipment. If those plants are in a closed system and not an open one, like that of natural systems where water is going into and out of the substrate or an Anoxic Filtration System, then the plants will not do as much work as you are lead to believe. It would take several pounds of plants to do the work you are talking about and that is a scientific fact.

Aquasoil is a good substrate for planted aquariums when new but what if you already have a medium to use such as aquarium gravel and you don’t wish to buy new gravel all over again? Aquasoil will become exhausted then what do you do? Then you make mention of “trapping all colloidal particles” that means that the substrate is a noncystalline substance and that means no attraction of positive ions out of the water body. Clay (Laterite) has a crystalline structure and that in turn attracts positive ion out of the water body. When it becomes exhausted it can be added to using various methods.

QUOTE: ”plants play a huge role and will manipulate their surroundings to more than ideal.” Sorry but this is not quite true and ask any pond owner when they go to transplant their water lilies (remember they are under the most ideal condition ever with direct sunlight and all the CO2 in the world at their disposal) and see blacken soil and smell what it is doing, and they will tell you the same thing. Plus, I give an example that even with plants the gravel will blacken at the very bottom of the glass aquarium in time. I would not call that manipulate their surroundings to favorable conditions, would you? Blacken gravel means no oxygen is getting to that part of the substrate and that means obligated anaerobic bacteria are creating their havoc.

Look Dave, I’m not trying to be a smart ass here, but all that I talk about is being taught in universities in microbiology classes along with aquatic botany of plants. You don’t think I spent 10-years of scientific research on the AFS and I didn’t try dirt, do you? Dirt fail miserably in a closed system because of permeability and porewater did not quite make ideal conditions unless the plants were very aggressive in bringing oxygen into the substrate. It was only repeatable if conditions were ideal and then if there was a break down of the plants ability to take in cantons and anions in equal amounts, the soil went bad and anaerobic conditions took over the substrates. The substrate has to depend on other means to get water into it and oxygen and plants are not the answer alone. That’s why in the AFS it works with and without plants because of the science behind how it works with the substrate and bacteria.

When I try and help the hobbyist, I try and give repeatability of doing things that gives them a 90% chance or better for success for their endeavors. Heavyweights in this hobby invent things that make it better for all, not give none scientific anecdotal accounts of what they think is good for all. It takes years of research and experimenting to come up with great ideas that benefit all and not just a few. An then when you’re all done an bring it out to the public, you better have all your ducks in a row or they will eat you alive and smash your face right into the grown, and laugh all the while they’re doing it. Hobbyists are brutal people and don’t…like…change!

By the way, thanks for the Internet site.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

QUOTE: ”A tank, whether glass or a manmade pond, is basically stagnant water.”

QUOTE: ”A tank, whether glass or a manmade pond, is basically stagnant water.”

“A tank, whether glass or a manmade pond, is basically stagnant water. A natural lake is continuously replenished with fresh(er) water.  PH affects what microbes can exist in sediment. Ignore pH at the risk of creating anaerobic pockets in the soil in the bottom, even with very good flow through the under gravel filtering system, because, aerobic microbes may not be able to live in the pH range.”

The more water per inch of fish, the better, unless you are keeping fighting fish. They seem to love really horrible, cramped quarters.”

As the rocks get turned over only then can you see what the bacteria are doing and it’s not good.

  I don’t think anyone would call a pond or aquarium “stagnated water” by any means; it would more likely be a closed system at lest in scientific terms that is. Most ponds and aquariums have moving water in them by mechanical means or natural means like wind, temperature and so on. Even in a substrate where water is moving very slowly then the bacteria may deplete the available oxygen and carbon in it but it is still moving nonetheless. This could be through diffusion; convection, percolation but it is still is moving and not stagnated. This is why the gravel in an aquarium turns black because the water is still moving through it by chemical reaction but it lacks the oxygen it once carried. Other whys how would the ammonia ion get back in solution into the aquarium if it wasn’t moving to do so?

  When we talk about biological filtration and the microorganisms that live in it, pH really is not the limiting factor on the number of bacteria living in the substrate. Bacteria are very resilient to their environment and in a very short time will adjust to biological and chemical changes within that environment.

  In fact they can become super bugs to chemical treatments, that first may kill them or hinder their reproduction cycle but then they will dimorph and bounce right back again. pH is nothing more than a chemical change that may hinder some bacterium but not those of organic decay and nitrogen fixation, but others in the same genus will take their place in the bacteria world.

  pH also has nothing to do with anaerobic or aerobic bacteria either. Oxygen and the lack of carbon control the types of microorganisms that will live in the substrate not pH. A pH swing may affect the reproduction cycle of bacteria but that will be short lived if there is plenty of oxygen and available foodstuff.  

This water just isn’t dirty, its blacken from the bacteria.

  That is why in a pond or aquarium the pH can be 6.0 -9.0 pH and your biological filter will not be affected by it. However, if you’re talking about obligated anaerobic bacteria doing fermentation processes (oxygen availability is lacking in the substrate) then pH will drop by sulfate-reducing bacteria that oxidizes organic compounds or molecular hydrogen in the process of their reducing those compounds. That is because these bacteria literally respire sulfate and have no use for oxygen in anaerobic respiration. Once again that is oxygen is in sort supply and not the pH being too low or too high. The pH is an outcome of the fermentation processes but will not trigger the process alone, nor the bacterium living in the substrate.

  Adding more oxygen to the substrate even as low as .5-ppm and almost immediately following the obligated anaerobic bacterium will die and facultative anaerobic bacteria will take over. This is a good bacterium that hobbyists want and this is called ANOXIC conditions. Once again pH will normalize back to expectable levels.

  The fact of it is, even at a 2.2 pH like that of the lemon has; bacteria will survive and grow as long as it has food and oxygen. Yet, these bacteria will be obligated forms and not the sulfate-reducing bacteria that grow without oxygen.


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Update on Brian Woodcock’s AFS MKII with some more photos 3-18-2015

Update on Brian Woodcock’s AFS MKII with some more photos 3-18-2015

Making his new the AFS MKII out of concrete masonry Cinder blocks is definitely one way of insuring that it will not need rebuilding over time. With an AFS made this way a liner would not be needed just some pond sealing paint would do the trick.

The synthetic rockery waterfall is shown too were it will go. Much bigger than his last one, but will he utilize its bigger size by pumping more water through the AFS?

Cut the handle off by a 1” and made it shorter so it would open and close easily.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Update on Brian Woodcock's pond build 3-15-2015 Hello everyone, I thought I would give you an update on Brian Woodcock’s new AFS MKII that he has been working on in the UK.

Update on Brian Woodcock's pond build 3-15-2015

Hello everyone, I thought I would give you an update on Brian Woodcock’s new AFS MKII that he has been working on in the UK.

He is now going to replace his old waterfall with a new Bespoke waterfall that looks very nice. It also looks like he's building a new pump-house for his equipment that will give him easier access for maintenance.

Enjoy the photos,


Friday, March 6, 2015

So what are you saying that the solution is? Sifted, mineralized organic potting soil under gravel?

So what are you saying that the solution is? Sifted, mineralized organic potting soil under gravel? Along with disturbances of such before w/c, to release?

Laterite is not sifted organic potting soil but is an additive to an already existing substrate. It is a clayey material from tropical regions rich in iron, manganese and many other beneficial trace elements in it, and the iron oxides makes it look a rather rusty-red in color. It has a crystalline structure to it that will attract positive ions out of solution and aids in the diffusion of ions in the substrate.

Plants love it and grow much bigger, greener, photosynthesis is better with it and bacteria love it and use it for the building of cells. Without all the negative side affects that potting soil would have or fertilizers place in the system will have. If however it is as you but it “disturbed” it will have no negative impact on the system whatsoever and will not become an insult.

This is the reason why you only add small amounts to the substrate and not make it the substrate itself. It is not a fertilizer like some think but a missing element (like iron) that stays concentrated in the substrate so roots and hair root proliferation can grow. Hair root proliferation will aid the plant in the process of exchanging cantons and anions. All aquatic plants MUST take cantons and anions in equal amounts in order to avoid a fatal pH swing. Plants have a steady 7.0 pH no matter what the external environment has. Iron is the most valuable trace element that plants need and only light supersedes it. However, if you pore iron directly into the tank you risk over dosing the plants with iron and killing the plants from too much kindness. Plus if you use activated carbon in your filter, then say so-long to your iron supplement.

Long ago planted tanks would have iron nails placed in the substrate to aid in bacteria and plants growth. However, as nails gave way to better metals in their manufacturing this practice was abandoned. You really don’t see iron nails any more because they will leave rust spots.

Potting soil has none of these characteristics and is pretty much useless in the aquarium or pond for that matter unless you like very green water from an overabundance of nitrogen and phosphates. Terrestrial plants use Nitrates and aquatic plants use ammonia/ammonium ions for their food source. Its porewater and permeability are not at all as good as Laterite because of the wrong size of microporosity. Potting soil will compact like sand and make dead zones and has no crystalline structure to aid in the diffusion of ions.

If you think it’s bad then don’t use it, but your bacteria and plants think otherwise!

Photo taken from internet.


Thursday, March 5, 2015

Brian Woodcock’s Anoxic Filtration MKII rebuild, bigger and more efficient than his old AFS.

Hello everyone, well it’s that time of year once again when we start thinking ponds and back yard activities. Not here in Chicago though, the weather temperatures are still too bitterly cold. In fact it is about 25 degrees lower than what the norm should be at this time of year.

However, in the UK the weather must be breaking and giving the Brits some nice wormer temps to get out and start working on their ponds and yards. Brian Woodcock is now working on his Anoxic Filter MKII that I made mention of in past post, and in the next photos he will be showing a teardown of his two-year-old Anoxic Filter to replace it with a bigger one that will hold more BCB’s plus have a Plenum.

The plenum will aid in the disposal of mulm and detritus that built up in the Anoxic Filter because of the restricting PVC pipes that the BCB’s were sitting on. The BCB’s will be raised and sitting on…well I don’t know exactly but will see as he progresses along. It may be PVC pipes or plastic egg-crate mesh.

Built into the plenum floor will be a 4" bottom drain replacing the 2" drain that he was presently using. Apparently the 2" drain did not allow the water to empty fast enough to take all the mulm out. With the BCB’s being raised off the filters bottom this will help in keeping his AFS cleaner and easier to maintain.

If you go through my posts you will see Brian’s old Anoxic Filter and how well it was made but this time he will replace the floors capping stone with a cement floor instead.
It’s a shame to see the old Anoxic Filter go, because it just started getting some patina on it.

Getting the new floor ready, you can also see how much bigger the Anoxic MKII is going to be compared to the old one.
This drawing shows a cut away view of the AFS and how the plenum will be added with PVC pipes to hold the BCB’s on. It will mimic a rabbit cage that lets all the detritus and mulm fall to the bottom.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Dr. Novak, you clearly have demonstrated that my knowledge of aquatic biosphere is lacking to say the least. Anyways are you implying that an under gravel substrate filter system works better than just adding rocks without water circulating thru the under gravel? So a pro head system is better or just an area that is open, like a plenum under the gravel?

Question: Dr. Novak, you clearly have demonstrated that my knowledge of aquatic biosphere is lacking to say the least. Anyways are you implying that an under gravel substrate filter system works better than just adding rocks without water circulating thru the under gravel? So a pro head system is better or just an area that is open, like a plenum under the gravel?

Okay, good question, but for me to answer this one we will have to go back into time to 1960. About this time UG filters came into the aquarium hobby and hobbyist began to realize that their gravel substrate was an excellent bacteria growth media. The lift tubes were no more than 3/8 in diameter, short, very noisy from big air bubbles going through them and moved very little water through the substrate. The UG plates slot were all the same size and water moved through the UG faster closest by the lift tube and a lot slower further from the lift tubes.

What they had in a round-about-way was a plenum and didn’t realize it. Water moves very slowly through a plenum through a diffusion of ions that are negative and positive charged. The water being mostly positive ions in it and the substrate being mostly negative ions and the plenum itself had both positive and negative ions in it. Like a magnet, the positive ions move into the negatively charged substrate where facultative anaerobic bacteria utilize the ions as a foodsource.

Because of the lack of understanding of bacteria growth back them by hobbyist; the UG filter became just that, a new mechanical/biological aerobic filter. Manufactures in their own demise keep improving the UG filter to the point that the water would move faster and faster through the UG plates and brought more oxygenated water with it. Hence, the predominating bacteria became anaerobes instead of the dimorphic facultative bacteria that were in bygone days. By improving with one hand we unknowingly destroyed with the other.

Water like electricity takes the path of least resistance and as clogging encored, water would channel to the easy path of lest resistance. The facultative bacteria lessen and with that left the ability for the UG filter to use Nitrates as a foodsource. Nitrates began to build up to ungodly levels so now more water changes were needed to get rid of the Nitrates. Plus, the UG became another mechanical filter and like all mechanical filters must be cleaned quite often do to clogging.

It was believed back then that plants needed Nitrates as a foodsource so the hobbyist would add more plant fertilizer in the form of nitrogen tabs. This practice still goes on to this very day. Unknowingly hobbyists still think plants need nitrogen as a main foodsource but they do not, they need ammonia/ammonium ions as a food source not nitrogen.

 Also plants do not like fast moving water going through their root system but a slow steady convection movement of water molecules passing over their root systems. Too slow and the plants will die because of the lack of oxygen and too fast and the plants nutrients are not staying around to be utilized by the root hair system so the plants can flourish like they are suppose to.

Now we come to 2015 and what is known today. When I came up with the Anoxic Filtration System in 1989 my studies showed that facultative bacteria utilize nitrates, ammonia/ammonium and phosphates as a foodsource. Stealing oxygen wherever it can from available ions. It was a better bacterium than just using anaerobes alone as thought.

However, facultative bacteria like a low oxygen substrate of 2-.5 ppm (anoxic conditions) of oxygen and not the kind hobbyist provide by moving water too fast through the substrates with lots of oxygen impregnated in it that favors anaerobic bacteria. Anaerobic bacteria make waste that another bacteria now must utilize as a foodsource. If this balancing act is disrupted in anyway, the system will fail and cyanobacteria and algae will be the outcome.

So to answer your question. Lift the gravel off the bottom of the glass with a plenum and utilize the same reaction action as a natural system does. Natural systems move water in and out of their substrate slowly through electrical charge like an AFS does and through convectional movement, percolation and diffusion abound. If you do not do this, then diffusion is interrupted and impedes the oxygen flow into the substrate.