Biological Filtration Survey - Page 2 - The Planted Tank Forum
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post #16 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-20-2020, 03:13 AM
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I wont be throwing my biological media out anytime in this lifetime, but--- question...
I have also always heard ( and yeah, this could be false) that beneficial bacteria grow most abundantly in areas of highest oxygenation and food. This being located in the filter.

This quote explains it better than I could :

"The good bacteria can live on any surface in the aquarium. However, like all organisms ever, they concentrate their populations where their limiting factors are best met. In an aquarium the two things that are the most limited for the bacteria are food and oxygen. Filters provide flow which provides food and oxygen. The surface area of the biomedia provides a surface for the bacteria to grow on where they can sit and allow the oxygen and food to come to them. At the end of the day it is not the biomedia itself that is anything magical, it is nothing more than surface area per volume. The bacteria are happy to grow on any surface, but they do not simply spread out evenly throughout the aquarium. Although any surface area in the tank (decor, glass, substrate, etc.) are otherwise perfectly acceptable, they do not have the same flow as the filter and therefore will not house significant colonies of bacteria."

Cycling and Understanding the Good Bacteria ? Advanced Aquarium Concepts

Is this incorrect?
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post #17 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-20-2020, 04:10 AM
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I would say that bacteria are much like all living things. If they have a choice, they tend to live in far greater numbers where life is easier! So if they can hangout in a filter and let all the wants and needs come to them, why not?
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post #18 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-20-2020, 04:30 PM
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This reminds me of the repeated claim that we must have 4x to 10x flow through a filter for good filtration...almost borders on nonsense. Water is brought into the filter from the tank, so there is no more O2 there than in the tank. It has been suggested (not remembering where) that the flow through the filter is fast enough to inhibit the efficiency of beneficial bacteria to process ammonia and nitrites (but maybe if we move water 4 to 10 times an hour the bacteria will have more chances to catch the food <hehe>).
I tend to believe that the very best bio-filtration happens with the zillion creatures that inhabit the substrate. But I just can't find my soap box this morning.
In any case, I used to buy into the commercial bio-media marketing hype, but after years of my own experiments and testing, I'm convinced that sponge material is every bit as good or better, cleans easily, and lasts nearly forever. Still, in the established tank, any BB in a filter is dwarfed by that in the substrate. That's my story anyway and I'm sticking to it. :-)
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post #19 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-20-2020, 08:24 PM
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Originally Posted by AbbeysDad View Post
This reminds me of the repeated claim that we must have 4x to 10x flow through a filter for good filtration...almost borders on nonsense. Water is brought into the filter from the tank, so there is no more O2 there than in the tank. It has been suggested (not remembering where) that the flow through the filter is fast enough to inhibit the efficiency of beneficial bacteria to process ammonia and nitrites (but maybe if we move water 4 to 10 times an hour the bacteria will have more chances to catch the food <hehe>).
I tend to believe that the very best bio-filtration happens with the zillion creatures that inhabit the substrate. But I just can't find my soap box this morning.
In any case, I used to buy into the commercial bio-media marketing hype, but after years of my own experiments and testing, I'm convinced that sponge material is every bit as good or better, cleans easily, and lasts nearly forever. Still, in the established tank, any BB in a filter is dwarfed by that in the substrate. That's my story anyway and I'm sticking to it. :-)
Not disagreeing at all on any point as things vary so much, the sub definitely has bacteria but I feel it may be a thin layer as compared to media in the filter as there is not water flow going down deep into the sub where we do find water flowing through media. So how how long the tank has been set and not been changed do make a difference in how much we might find and where, so If have no problem with putting some form of hard media in the filter as a hedge against any time that I might want to redo most of the sub as that gives me two places that I know there are a good set of bacteria. Then it also gives me comfort knowing that when I clean the filter after the tank has been running for months and I might knock the bacteria in the filter way down, I can know that the stuff all around the other parts of the tank will cover for any mistake I may make in overcleaning things.
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post #20 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-20-2020, 10:53 PM
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As I read through this, it seems to me that all of these points are good. Fundamentally, I suspect that there is not that much for the BB to do, no matter where it is. In a mature tank it will rapidly expand to the level of the food supplied (like snails), namely: ammonia. If ammonia was a big presence, I suspect that we would see quite a lot more deaths with even slight disruptions to substrate and/or filter media. We would also all be monitoring total ammonia with great frequency and concern. I don't remember the last time I checked TAN on my display tank.

Anecdotal experiences: I have always had overly-stocked aquariums, with and without plants, and cannot recall a tank wipe-out that could be attributed to ammonia ONCE the BB was established. Before we knew about the Nitrogen Cycle, we threw our spent charcoal and floss out every week and completely cleaned our filters, with no deaths. This was well before CO2 injection, so pH was generally ideally suited to leaving the ammonia in the deadly NH3 form, as opposed to the safe NH4 when pH is below 7. In this case the BB was probably never established in the filter. Often, I'd go a month or more before cleaning, which allowed BB to build in the filter - then threw it all out, with no problem. I have also completely replaced substrates with no bio-media in the filter and, again, no deaths. I've even been without power for days with no problem. In this case the BB in the substrate, and the plants, were undoubtedly critical. This might even make the case that plants take most of the ammonia.

In other words, in a mature tank, I think that BB rapidly meet the ammonia needs of the aquarium on any surface they can find (maybe even in layers) and, if you have plants, that further reduces the ammonia threat.
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post #21 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-21-2020, 12:17 AM
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Yes, how often do we really admit that the "good old days" were not really that good?
I grew up in a house where it was a weekly chore to clean the fish tanks and I do mean we got them CLEAN, even to the point of taking the tank to the sink and swabbing it out with the hottest water we could stand. Get that sucker as clean as possible to avoid something going wrong and all the fish dying!
Fish must have really been tough to not die! They were only guppies but they were tough guppies!
Maybe if we all used totally new water every week we would not need the bacteria?
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post #22 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-21-2020, 01:33 AM
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Originally Posted by Deanna View Post
...

In other words, in a mature tank, I think that BB rapidly meet the ammonia needs of the aquarium on any surface they can find (maybe even in layers) and, if you have plants, that further reduces the ammonia threat.
Well I certainly agree with that. Plants really make quick work of any ammonia/toxins that to me anyway is why having a tank full of healthy plant mass are the most carefree in terms of water changes and light tolerance. Water changes are great, but there is a lot of 'downtime' between them as well as the filter.

There seems to be a misconception that just because you have high turnover and waste is in the filter that its no longer a threat. Other than flow, that's why I think a high turnover necessity is not valid. For me the most important role the filter plays is at startup because you can house whatever you want to get you through the awkward startup period until the plants get going and the BB is stable. After that I'm quite sure the tank itself (especially one with good plant mass) is the main filter. I always start with a large proportion of activated carbon, after that it's mostly filter floss for me. I've also noticed that tanks that startup 'clean' do better long-term without developing algae issues.
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post #23 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-21-2020, 03:48 AM
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Originally Posted by PlantedRich View Post
Not disagreeing at all on any point as things vary so much, the sub definitely has bacteria but I feel it may be a thin layer as compared to media in the filter as there is not water flow going down deep into the sub where we do find water flowing through media. So how how long the tank has been set and not been changed do make a difference in how much we might find and where, so If have no problem with putting some form of hard media in the filter as a hedge against any time that I might want to redo most of the sub as that gives me two places that I know there are a good set of bacteria. Then it also gives me comfort knowing that when I clean the filter after the tank has been running for months and I might knock the bacteria in the filter way down, I can know that the stuff all around the other parts of the tank will cover for any mistake I may make in overcleaning things.

I'm using 3-4" of pool filter sand for my substrate that has excellent permeability (which is how/why it works in my pool filter!) Now it's said that the aerobic region is only an inch or so deep. However, if I was to calculate that 1" depth over the 12x48" of the tank, I'm pretty sure the surface area for bacteria on all those grains of sand would far and away exceed that of any bio-media in any filter. But perhaps more importantly are the countless other micro organisms that live down there. Not to stray too far, but this is pretty cool:
...and then again, my filters are full of sponge material yielding all the BB backup I'd ever need...although I clean these pretty good regularly.
Then too, I've yet to try it, but I'm curious about Dr. Kevin Novak's Plenum approach.
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Last edited by AbbeysDad; 11-21-2020 at 04:19 AM. Reason: clarification
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post #24 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-21-2020, 03:38 PM
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Anecdotal experiences: I have always had overly-stocked aquariums, with and without plants, and cannot recall a tank wipe-out that could be attributed to ammonia ONCE the BB was established. Before we knew about the Nitrogen Cycle, we threw our spent charcoal and floss out every week and completely cleaned our filters, with no deaths. This was well before CO2 injection, so pH was generally ideally suited to leaving the ammonia in the deadly NH3 form, as opposed to the safe NH4 when pH is below 7. In this case the BB was probably never established in the filter. Often, I'd go a month or more before cleaning, which allowed BB to build in the filter - then threw it all out, with no problem. I have also completely replaced substrates with no bio-media in the filter and, again, no deaths. I've even been without power for days with no problem. In this case the BB in the substrate, and the plants, were undoubtedly critical. This might even make the case that plants take most of the ammonia.

In other words, in a mature tank, I think that BB rapidly meet the ammonia needs of the aquarium on any surface they can find (maybe even in layers) and, if you have plants, that further reduces the ammonia threat.
You have never heard of aquarists experiencing mini-cycles with established nitrogen cycles? Really?

Ive seen it in my own aquarium several times over the last 33 years of having aquariums. In only 4 of those 33 years have I had plants. My tanks consisted of big fish ( heavy bio-load) and sand substrate.

These mini-cycles occurred either after cleaning too vigorously, after medicating with penicillin based meds, changing out substrate. As far as cleaning, I have taken my mechanical out routinely and sprayed off in tap weekly when I ran HOB's. But, I learned quickly that doing too much at once-- cleaning mechanical, biological, vacuuming sand, and changing water would lead to a mini-cycle. Thats pretty basic.

I realize that you are giving anecdotal evidence, but it is surprising to me you have never experienced a mini cycle after establishing a cycle because not only have I experience them, I have helped many aquarists who have as well and have a tank of sick fish with secondary issues due to ammonia exposure.


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post #25 of 25 (permalink) Old 11-21-2020, 05:42 PM
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Originally Posted by Discusluv View Post
You have never heard of aquarists experiencing mini-cycles with established nitrogen cycles? Really?

Ive seen it in my own aquarium several times over the last 33 years of having aquariums. In only 4 of those 33 years have I had plants. My tanks consisted of big fish ( heavy bio-load) and sand substrate.

These mini-cycles occurred either after cleaning too vigorously, after medicating with penicillin based meds, changing out substrate. As far as cleaning, I have taken my mechanical out routinely and sprayed off in tap weekly when I ran HOB's. But, I learned quickly that doing too much at once-- cleaning mechanical, biological, vacuuming sand, and changing water would lead to a mini-cycle. Thats pretty basic.

I realize that you are giving anecdotal evidence, but it is surprising to me you have never experienced a mini cycle after establishing a cycle because not only have I experience them, I have helped many aquarists who have as well and have a tank of sick fish with secondary issues due to ammonia exposure.
Yes, mini-cycles are familiar to me, but only in terms of identifying a disturbance. I've also successfully launched tanks without cycling. However, my emphasis was upon loss of life en masse, which I never experienced due to ammonia ...as far as I can recall. I have been very successful inducing tank wipe-outs using CO2 and H2O2, though. As I mentioned, I believe the rapid proliferation of bacteria, from an existing culture, makes these a very brief event when the bacteria are present everywhere. So, my point was that sterilizing a filter or removing the substrate may not be enough to do damage because the BB are still plentiful enough elsewhere to absorb the shock and - importantly - plants can almost completely eliminate this risk.

No doubt that, like many disturbances, the stress does cause weaker fish to be more susceptible to secondary disease and I have seen cases of ammonia burn, but these were, IME, due to ammonia shocks that weren't based in filter failures. I also was, myopically, thinking only in terms of community type tropical fish. Although I had a Discus tank long ago, with no issues that I recall, I do recognize that you probably are far more sensitive due to a lack of plants, high pH and the pp (proliferate pooping) aspects of Discus.
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