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Dried-up Gravel = Nitro-bacteria dead or dormant?

2786 Views 3 Replies 3 Participants Last post by  spinjector
Hi all,

Do the Nitrobacter and Nitrosomonas bacteria in gravel die when the gravel dries up? Or do they go dormant? *This is Asked in the context of an undergravel filter being used with about 4" of gravel and a powerhead.

I recently moved from Buffalo to Seattle. In doing so, I sold most of my fish back to the LFS, and put the tanks on the moving truck. But I brought my plants and a few favorite fish with me in some buckets in the car and trailer.

During the month it took me to find an apartment, the fish I brought with me lived in the pail with the plants in my rented room, and my tanks sat in storage in the moving truck at the ABF Freight terminal. During that time, the gravel completely dried out from baking in the truck in the summer sun. When I finally got my tanks out of the truck and moved into the house, the gravel was completely dry, and they smelled horrible.

I removed the gravel, rinsed it out well with plain room-temperature water, and scrubbed the tanks with a washcloth and sea salt. I set them up in the usual fashion, plugged in some plants, and set my 5-gallons of incarcerated travel companions free for their first good swim in six weeks.

I was expecting the usual 4-6 week cycle time for a new tank, but I was surprised to find that it snapped into shape in about a week. The usual phases of bubbles, cloudiness, greenishness, and floating bits all went by really fast. The last phase was about two days of milky clouded water, which flared up and later ended literally overnight, and then the fish were all perky and happy after that. Now I have the kind of sparkling healthy tank I am used to.

So in a situation like this, do the bacteria die or go dormant?

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I think it does go dormant because the same would happen to me. I would take down a tank and put away the gravel for a few years and when I would put it in the tank, to my surprise, it cycled much faster.
Most of the bacteria does go dormant; however, some of it does die. Also one must take into consideration that the bacteria does have to leave dormancy once the conditions are right for it to survive and this can take a day or two. This is why bags of live sand are wet instead of dry. You should be fine though! One must remember that there is bacteria can survive almost anything.
I figured that must be the case. I know that extremophile bacteria exist in comparatively shocking places - boiling pools of water in the volcanic vents of Yellowstone park, frozen in the ice of Antarctica, even the theories that bacteria traveled on asteroid fragments through space between Earth and Mars. I just wasn't sure to what extent the critters lived in our tanks. Thanks. =-)
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