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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi guys,

Here is the goal of the experiment:

To grow bucephalandra as quickly as possible with very high lighting and co2 while having extremely little to no algae. Maintenance will also be very low. Maybe a 50% water change once every 2 weeks or so.

How we will do this:
Reducing nitrates and phosphates down to near 0 levels with a BCB filter. Nitrates and phosphates will be dosed, but then will be quickly consumed by the bacteria in the BCB filter. This leaves little left for algae to use. This keeps the water quality extremely polished and clean, which will massively add to tank stability.

What it looks like at the start of the experiment:
Here are 2 tank growing out varius bucephalandra species 99% of which names I do not know of.
1031853

1031854

1031855


Many of the bucephalandras have black brush algae growing on them as you can see. They are already grown in very low light, in fact, the growth rate is less than 1 leaf per week for most of the stems.

However, whenever I raise the light, they have a tendency to get black brush algae, staghorn algae, string hair algae, green spot algae and etc.

Hence comes the BCB filter.
The BCB filters are essentially the green mesh baskets taking up 50% of the aquarium.
It is essentially filled with 1/3 clay substrate at the bottom, 1/3 laterite based substrate in the center, and 1/3 clay substrate topped off at the top. This allows for anoxic zones or very low oxygen zones in the center of the bucket, which pulls in nitrates and phosphates that are consumed by anoxic bacteria.

These buckets have just been installed a few days ago, so it will take maybe a month for bacteria to fully colonize them.

After it is colonized I will raise the lighting levels slowly to see what lighting levels the system can handle until algae starts to take hold again. Currently I have a chihiros VIVID 2, so the lighting should go pretty high.


Some Questions You might have:

1. Aren't plants suppose to consume the nitrates and phosphates, why are you removing them?

A: They do, but I grow bucephalandra in this tank. They dont grow much and don't consume much. It's better for the stability of the tank if we depend on bacteria to clean our water instead. High phosphate levels also tend to cause the types of algae I am getting. I also have a lot of fish in the aquarium, so they produce a ton of waste.
 

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Just want to warn you that biocenosis baskets are kinda like the "alternative medicine" of aquariums. They have not been shown to have a denitrifying effect. They are not used in aquaculture, wastewater treatment, or really any actual settings where results matter. There are denitrification reactors, but they usually make use of "sludge" (dense organic waste creates the anaerobic interface needed for denitrificqtion) or sulfuric compounds for denitrification.

Kevin Novak does not run experiments. As far as I can see he has never used a control which is baffling for someone with a PhD. That is the bare minimum you can do conduct an experiment and see if what you are claiming is correct. Similarly, if you are not using a control, you are also not performing an experiment.


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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Just want to warn you that biocenosis baskets are kinda like the "alternative medicine" of aquariums. They have not been shown to have a denitrifying effect. They are not used in aquaculture, wastewater treatment, or really any actual settings where results matter. There are denitrification reactors, but they usually make use of "sludge" (dense organic waste creates the anaerobic interface needed for denitrificqtion) or sulfuric compounds for denitrification.

Kevin Novak does not run experiments. As far as I can see he has never used a control which is baffling for someone with a PhD. That is the bare minimum you can do conduct an experiment and see if what you are claiming is correct. Similarly, if you are not using a control, you are also not performing an experiment.


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Interesting.

I have a little experiment I can set up as well to actually test if the baskets do anything at all.
After about 1-1.5 month where the bacteria should have had enough time to establish, I can move the BCB baskets into a standard 10 gallon tank with no plants. I will dose around 30ppm of nitrates and then wait around 10 days to see what happens. The nitrates should drop to undetectable levels at that period of time if the bacteria are actually doing anything.

If it does reduce the nitrates down, then at the hobbyist level this should be more than sufficient to improve the health of your aquarium and fish.

I have seen a large reduction in algae growth since adding the baskets while also 5x'ing the amount of light im using. However, I will wait a full month or another 2 weeks to report back.

I know there is a lot of debates around the topic, so I made the BCB baskets larger than what should be ever required for my tank. it takes up nearly 40% of the space in the tank. (1 Basket used flourite red and another used Oliver Knotts Laterite substrate). If it doesn't work well under these conditions, then it is probably insufficient for any practical conditions.
 

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He's the guy behind aquarium science.org?
Kevin Novak is the guy behind Anoxic Filtration System and the surprisingly popular Youtube channel.

He makes a number of pretty crazy claims. Here's a quick rundown:

  • By putting laterite inside a basket of kitty litter, you create an electric charge that draws in ammonia, and then anoxic bacteria convert it to nitrogen gas.
  • This same setup also strips an oxygen molecule from phosphate, which somehow removes it from the water column?
  • Phosphates and nitrates in the aquarium will cause algae, and should be kept at undetectable (0 PPM) levels in planted tanks
  • He has a detailed dosing guideline that says nutrients provided at a certain time of day will have a different effect than nutrients provided at a different time of day

As far as I can tell this is his modus operandi:

  • Use big words (often completely incorrectly) to confuse the listener/reader
  • Use of phrases like "this has been scientifically proven" while never actually providing scientific proof
  • Gish gallop: Make untrue and unverified claims at such a rate that it would be impossible to point out all the fallacies.
  • Talk down at people who question his claims as if they are either dumb or trolls.
  • Heavy reliance on appeal to authority. He calls himself "Dr. Kevin Novak, PhD." I have so far been unable to find any research published under his name, or to establish if he even has a PhD. I have also been unable to find any published experiments regarding these "biocenosis baskets." I asked him about this, and he said "These questions have already been answered" which is a convenient way to avoid answering the question. I suspect he either does not have a PhD, or has a PhD completely unrelated to chemistry/biology/biochemistry.
  • Circular references: He frequently cites people who write to him, or people who write articles about him, as proof. There is a particularly strange circular loop between him and someone who goes by "Mankey Sanke," where one cites the other as proof and vise-versa while never actually providing proof. Here's an excerpt from Manky Sanke's website:

"The way these baskets work is too complicated to explain in detail but relies on the fact that, according to Dr. Novak’s research, although nitrate is an excellent plant food, ammonia is a better one. Given a choice, the plants in these baskets will take ammonia direct from pond water, in preference to nitrate. Amazing but true! Ammonia (NH4+) also has an electrical charge. Opposite electrical charges within the basket draw ammonia in. Facultative anaerobic bugs ensure that any nitrate in the water is stripped of it’s oxygen and the nitrogen bubbles away in the same way as in denitrifying media in figure 2. And that’s the simple explanation, the full details are mind numbing!"

In reality, the full details do not exist. As mentioned before, neither of these two have ever cited a peer-reviewed paper. Here's an example of Kevin Novak's writing on his website:

"Very fine substrates, example: sand and/or dirt, will cause the most problems in the long run because they will compact even more so than other mediums will or should I say they will show the first signs of trouble in the least amount of time given. This has already been scientifically proven, but some hobbyist refuses to heed to science disciplines an insist on using these mediums as a cheap alterative substrate in closed systems. Water movement through the substrate will change and so will its electrical properties as far as mV readings go. Hobbyist do not own the right testing equipment to test such changes in the substrate so these insults, chemical and biological changes go unabated far months or even years."

You can see the strategy I mentioned above at play. He says this has been scientifically proven (dirt is not a good substrate for growing plants?) while not providing proof. I have no idea what he's talking about with regards to electrical properties and mV readings. What is he measuring using units of megavolts in the substrate? It's complete nonsense as far as I can tell. The result of reading this passage might make someone uninvolved in the sciences think, "hey, this guy is smart and I want to be one of the smart ones too. I'll agree with him." It leads to an in-group circlejerk that is very apparent in the YouTube comments section.

I'm certainly no great scientific mind, but I did study ecology & evolutionary biology in college that included course work in chemistry, microbiology, and limnology, so I like to think I at least have a functional bull**** meter. Tom Barr (who has a bachelor's in limnology and a PhD in agronomy) actually got into it with him back in the day because he was spewing bull****, which caused Kevin Novak to deactivate his YouTube channel for a while.

I don't know who is behind aquariumscience.org. They seem to have a chip on their shoulder for sure, but their understanding of basic science is sound, and they conduct actual, real-world experiments. It's just my go-to when someone asks about Kevin Novak because I don't have a website, or the time, to get in to it when Kevin Novak is putting out two hour-long videos a week. I've already dedicated far too much of my time on earth to thinking about him.
 

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Interesting.

I have a little experiment I can set up as well to actually test if the baskets do anything at all.
After about 1-1.5 month where the bacteria should have had enough time to establish, I can move the BCB baskets into a standard 10 gallon tank with no plants. I will dose around 30ppm of nitrates and then wait around 10 days to see what happens. The nitrates should drop to undetectable levels at that period of time if the bacteria are actually doing anything.

If it does reduce the nitrates down, then at the hobbyist level this should be more than sufficient to improve the health of your aquarium and fish.

I have seen a large reduction in algae growth since adding the baskets while also 5x'ing the amount of light im using. However, I will wait a full month or another 2 weeks to report back.

I know there is a lot of debates around the topic, so I made the BCB baskets larger than what should be ever required for my tank. it takes up nearly 40% of the space in the tank. (1 Basket used flourite red and another used Oliver Knotts Laterite substrate). If it doesn't work well under these conditions, then it is probably insufficient for any practical conditions.
I'm all for controlled experiments. To test their effectiveness, I would fill one basket with a biocenosis basket and one with another high-CEC substrate, such as pumice. I would guess that denitrification is not happening, but rather the insane amount of kitty litter (which has a high CEC) is binding with ammonium ions causing a reduction in the amount of of detectable ammonia (or nitrates, depending on what you want to measure). Pumice also has a high CEC, so if this theory is correct you would expect to see similar results between the two baskets. No light or plants should be used to avoid confounding variables.

You should keep in mind that Novak claims that the biocenosis baskets convert ammonia straight in to nitrogen gas with no intermediary step, so you might want to dose ammonia. This should be cheap and effective as long as you don't put any livestock in there.
 

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This... experiment... is. Well, I guess it's an experiment. Or will be kind of an experiment if set up properly as others have suggested.

Wish I could say what I think about Kevin Novak without being put in forum jail by myself. Translation: I have only absolutely terrible, scandalous things to say. He's a full-on conspiracy theorist woomonger. Thank goodness there are people like @gjcarew with much more class than me.

That said, I recently got a huge kick out of him going on about test strips. There was a thread about it y'all may find interesting. Here's hoping people catch on and stop watching his tripe.
 

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Now that's a nitrate reactor! I wonder if that could be useful in an overstocked, planted tank.

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I really don't recommend it unless you're just nostalgic for the smell of a wastewater treatment plant.
 

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