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post #7 of (permalink) Old 04-05-2013, 09:09 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Citrus County,Florida
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I completely understand your position after what you dealt with but not the summary statements as to organic content or microbes producing hydrogen sulfide as a normal product of organic breakdown and consumption.

Using potting soil people have reported huge spikes in ammonia for a few weeks (contains manures). Using the 'organic' potting mix with ferts added both phosphate and ammonia problems have been reported by those tanking an 'oops!' bag.

I do not doubt your data or the problems you endured trying to establish this tank. But I do challenge what was in reality used as a bagged product based on the results reported. Wish you had captured a photograph of the bag purchased. Scott's markets a number of products with very similar verbiage on the label.
Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix is the bagged 'dirt' product I use.
MGOCPM (potting mix) contains soils and a large portion of organic material (55-65% by volume). Sphagnum peat moss, composted bark fines, leaves, twigs, wood chips etc. and "pasteurized poultry litter" (cooked chicken crap).
The only quick release nutrient really is the poultry litter.
Nothing in it to cause out of control phosphates.
Having now set up over 14 tanks in house I post often on this method of tanking. Even set up several 'granny' tanks for shut in friends because gratefully I've found the reverse of the experiences you endured. After only two or three weeks of monitoring parameters I only visit these elderly friends maybe once a month to trim, clean glass and do partial water changes until they become comfortable with doing the maintenance.
Miracle Gro Organic Choice Potting Mix (exact labeling) is the only bagged 'dirt' product I have used.

Anaerobic bacteria are the end of the normal nitrogen cycle chain of bacters and the only ones that consume nitrate. Those starving and dying in large numbers or being disturbed can produce a sulfur odor but reality is not earth shattering. Something completely missed here in this tale of failure. Excessive layer depth, fluke of packaging, lack of needed minerals if only straight RO was used, something is missed.
Anaerobic and Aerobic type bacteria are present in nearly all substrate with only imbalance or larger pockets creating the 'problems'. Having had black stinky pockets in one tank or another I've never had anything die due to it except for a few Reopen stems. Later poking around and replacing plants the areas of issue were eliminated over time without any real drama.
Only a couple documented freshwater bacteria routinely release sulfur / acid compounds based on several published papers. The remaining strains, the vast majority (numbering in the hundreds), of anaerobic bacteria only do so when presented with a lack of food (NO3). Most die without any cumulative effect. Changes in the bacter food source is the cause of this shift to sulfate production and release not disturbance alone. Normally produced is the splitting of nitrogen and O2 (oxygen). This is science proven.
The presence of anaerobic bacteria is almost impossible to avoid except in bare tanks with positive flow sponge filters. These systems only have the first half of the nitrogen cycle in place and are dependent solely on water changes to remove all remaining waste products. Adding plants and substrate it's an entirely different game being played in system maintenance.
Anaerobic bacteria and the production of sulfides along with acids seems to always be reported in 3 ways;
Hobbyists repeating what they have heard or read with the majority being short on facts.
Those selling products inciting fears to help do so.
Scientific study papers which are very hard for most to read. (boring and chewy)
Almost anything can be stated as toxic above a threshold limit and allowed to become imbalanced.
Controlling anaerobic conditions in a nutrient rich substrate is absolutely possible. Anaerobic bacteria factor directly into natural planted tank keeping (Walstad published method) and ages old filter systems.

Conscientious Aquarist Magazine / Seachem published copyright 2010.
Freshwater Deep Sand Beds Work by Deirdre Kylie
closing excerpt;
While some tales of anaerobic disasters surely are true, bubbles from the substrate rise too quickly and have too little surface area to sufficiently contaminate even a small tank. Itís more likely that dissolved gases and toxins from anaerobic decay were released into the water column when they were disrupted by the fishkeeper. Bubbles percolating up through the sand leave it to harmlessly close up behind them without even mixing much - this phenomenon can easily be observed in bubbles which form against the glass because the anaerobic sand is black and contrasts with the oxygenated sand.
Important Acknowledgement
Though my tanks are not Walstad tanks, they are inspired and informed by Diana Walstadís method and information as presented in her wonderful book, "Ecology of the Planted Aquarium." I suggest that book as a great source of information about nutrients, bacteria, lighting, etc., comprehensible to the layperson. Without it, I might have red and blue epoxy covered gravel, plastic plants, some overcrowded goldfish, and little enthusiasm for the hobby.
I absolutely agree with all these statements.
Rex Grigg's planted tank guide, D.Walstad's book, George & Karla Booth ( are the primary source reference for my aquarium knowledge. Expanded with experience and further reading on topics of my interest.
Anaerobic bacteria feed on nitrates not ammonia and nitrites.
Good flow and circulation through the layers of substrate will maintain imbalance but WILL NOT eliminate all anaerobic forms of bacteria nor should you want it too.
Hobby related links
(luv this site on a range of tanking topics)
Remaining Wastes topic
Published study
Link list "anaerobic bacteria + freshwater" Scholar search all articles and patents. as_sdt=0&as_vis=1&oi=scholart
is what it is

Here's only one exchange on the topic of organics and anaerobic bacteria ia

Again I do not doubt your data or the problems you dealt with.
Only the product.

The Fraternity of Dirt
If at first you don't succeed,,, keep kicking it
2-75g planted, 5-55g planted, 5-20g planted, 110g w/30g sump, 8-10g, Refugium, doghouse/newbie
2012 update adding table top pleco pans & a 90g (Nutz)
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