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Byron

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I have often wondered where the aquatic nitrifying bacteria come from, and assumed it was not the tap water because of the chlorine. But, I was/am wrong.

I did searches to try and find information on this subject, and the best one believe it or not was back in this forum (TFF) from 2010. The only member in that thread that I recognize as still being active here is @kribensis12 [I was not on TFF in 2010, at least not actively]. He might remember this, but a couple of members had data that answers the question. Unfortunately the links they gave to sources don't work [all say site is gone or something], but the data is interesting.

First, something from my own knowledge. There are at least 10 species of Nitrosomonas bacteria. These are the ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, using ammonia/ammonium and producing nitrite. There are distinct species found in, and only in, soil, marine (sea) water, and freshwater. They do not work cross-ecosystem, i.e., the marine and soil species cannot function in freshwater, and vice versa. The bacteria are simply present in these ecosystems, and they do not and cannot travel outside their respective ecosystem. Nitrosomonas are non-motile bacteria, meaning they cannot move, they sort of "spread" along. All of this means that any sort of air transportation (as via spores as someone mentioned in the 2010 thread) is impossible. The bacteria are in and live in freshwater.

So, to the data from the 2010 thread. The bacteria are in the tap water. The chlorine used by municipal water authorities may (note, may) kill some, but certainly not all. This may be why it takes so long to establish the nitrifying bacteria in a new aquarium...there are few getting through. But clearly, some do, or the bacteria would never exist in a new aquarium unless added by seeding. Nitrifying bacteria are light phobic; they only live and function in darkness.

The above is not all that surprising, given that more recent studies have proved that rinsing filter media under the tap does not kill all the nitrifying. There just isn't enough chlorine to do so, and as far as chloramine, apparently that can't either. There are in fact bacteria species that consume part of the chloramine (came across this, now can't find it again!). The only thing that does kill them is drying out, freezing or boiling. They actually establish much faster and can multiply faster at temperatures inn the high 30's which is much too warm for fish.
 
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seangee

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So back to the question of whether or not to clean filter media sponges in tap water, the answer is simply that it depends. As already mentioned, if you have a well managed, established aquarium with plants and a light bio-load, thoroughly cleaning a filter in tap water would likely not cause an ammonia spike. Then again if it's a fairly new setup, no plants, and several fish - it could spell disaster!
And the very reason I always recommend using tank water in the forum. You never know who is reading it and what they understand by "planted". Its all about creating a balanced system, get that right and maintenance is easy. Same reason I always recommend cleaning the substrate but never touch mine :D (and for many thats an :eek:)
More recently, (much like not disturbing the sand bed so as not to upset the biological layers), I've decided that the biological colony in the filter matures to it's most effectiveness when undisturbed. So these days, I don't clean filters until I notice a significant reduction in water flow, and then I only clean enough to restore flow.
Our objective is to achieve and maintain crystal clear water through filtration and routine partial water changes.
My community tank is the only one with a canister (filled with nothing but coarse sponge). That one has the best of both worlds. I have stuck a basic sponge filter (without the airpump) over the inlet. These sponges are cleaned weekly but the canister itself gets cleaned once a year and TBH never looks like it needs it).
 

seangee

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Nitrosomonas are non-motile bacteria, meaning they cannot move, they sort of "spread" along.
In the right conditions (i.e. ammonia, oxygen, moving water are present) the nitrosomonas population will double in 2 hours so even if you happen to kill off half of it (which is unlikely) this is not an issue in a mature tank. Note that it will not increase (and some will die) in the absence of ammonia so the idea that you can over filter is a myth. There is no benefit in having a bigger filter than you need. And when you have sufficient plants the nitrosomonas population is likely to be low as the plants consume all their food.

For the sake of completeness nitrobacter (converts nitrite to nitrate) grows much slower and in ideal conditions can only double in around 24 hours. This is why cycling takes so long. Again if you have enough plants these use the ammonia without producing nitrites so both types of bacteria simply starve.
 

Byron

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Just one minor correction...the nitrite-oxidizing bacteria are Nitrospira spp, not Nitrobacter. The latter are the soil bacteria, but now proven not to be aquatic. Here's a link to a scientific study on this bacteria.
Hovanec, T. A., L. T. Taylor, A. Blakis and E. F. DeLong (1998), “Nitrospira- Like Bacteria Associated with Nitrite Oxidation in Freshwater Aquaria,” Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Vol. 64, No. 1, pp. 258-264.

 

AbbeysDad

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In the right conditions (i.e. ammonia, oxygen, moving water are present) the nitrosomonas population will double in 2 hours...
Not to split hairs, but I believe that nitrosomonas bacteria will double in about 7 hours.
For the sake of completeness nitrobacter (converts nitrite to nitrate) grows much slower and in ideal conditions can only double in around 24 hours.
It has been proven by Dr. Tim Hovanec that it is nitrospira that convert nitrites into nitrate. @Byron's article 'Bacteria in the Freshwater Aquarium' documents this. There's a great video interview with Dr. Tim that can be accessed in the article 'Does Bottled Bacteria Really Work'.

I do agree that newer hobbyists are more often better off taking a conservative approach to fishkeeping. If we could just be rid of the parroted myths that continue to prevail :)
 

kribensis12

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I have often wondered where the aquatic nitrifying bacteria come from, and assumed it was not the tap water because of the chlorine. But, I was/am wrong.

I did searches to try and find information on this subject, and the best one believe it or not was back in this forum (TFF) from 2010. The only member in that thread that I recognize as still being active here is @kribensis12 [I was not on TFF in 2010, at least not actively]. He might remember this, but a couple of members had data that answers the question. Unfortunately the links they gave to sources don't work [all say site is gone or something], but the data is interesting.

First, something from my own knowledge. There are at least 10 species of Nitrosomonas bacteria. These are the ammonia-oxidizing bacteria, using ammonia/ammonium and producing nitrite. There are distinct species found in, and only in, soil, marine (sea) water, and freshwater. They do not work cross-ecosystem, i.e., the marine and soil species cannot function in freshwater, and vice versa. The bacteria are simply present in these ecosystems, and they do not and cannot travel outside their respective ecosystem. Nitrosomonas are non-motile bacteria, meaning they cannot move, they sort of "spread" along. All of this means that any sort of air transportation (as via spores as someone mentioned in the 2010 thread) is impossible. The bacteria are in and live in freshwater.

So, to the data from the 2010 thread. The bacteria are in the tap water. The chlorine used by municipal water authorities may (note, may) kill some, but certainly not all. This may be why it takes so long to establish the nitrifying bacteria in a new aquarium...there are few getting through. But clearly, some do, or the bacteria would never exist in a new aquarium unless added by seeding. Nitrifying bacteria are light phobic; they only live and function in darkness.

The above is not all that surprising, given that more recent studies have proved that rinsing filter media under the tap does not kill all the nitrifying. There just isn't enough chlorine to do so, and as far as chloramine, apparently that can't either. There are in fact bacteria species that consume part of the chloramine (came across this, now can't find it again!). The only thing that does kill them is drying out, freezing or boiling. They actually establish much faster and can multiply faster at temperatures inn the high 30's which is much too warm for fish.

Very interesting. I do vaguely remember there being multiple threads on this topic but to be honest, I was 17 and not terribly interested into the research and/or "splitting hairs" on cycling - I knew my tanks were cycled and that's all I really cared about.

That being said, I think my overall thought on this topic is as follows:

1. Generally, changing practices in the hobby is done only because there is either a more easy, efficient and/or positive effect from changing the practice. In essence: it solves a problem.

2. As I do not see there being a problem with rinsing your sponge in tank water (not inconvenient and arguably the best way to preserve any bacteria), then there is no real reason to change practices.

3. If someone new to the hobby was attempting to start cleaning their sponge after just cycling their tank and used tap water, I would be personally concerned that this could negatively effect the aquarium as the tank is not very mature.

4. As washing in tap water could cause confusion for newer hobbyists and does not actually make anything about aquarium keeping more easy, efficient and/or beneficial, it seems to me to be a pointless conversation topic. There is no net positive gain to the hobby by that information other than "we've run out of things to talk about on the podcast, so let's talk about this controversial topic for an hour" IMHO.
 

Bruce Leyland-Jones

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I've also been thinking and wondering if I'm simply too stuck in my ways to embrace a radical new way of working.
I've decided not.
A quick review of tap water within this Forum illustrates quite clearly the wide variance of the stuff, across the world, that we get from our taps.
I'm sure that some water, direct from the taps, may well be safe enough.
I'm equally sure that some most certainly won't be.

A bud of mine recently detected a strong chlorine smell from his water. (He'd missed the letter from his water supplier explaining that this would be a short-term thing, whilst a major leak was being addressed, somewhere along the pipeline).

With this in mind, I'd view the use of water conditioners (and washing your filters in aquarium water) as a leveller.
Regardless of source, if you use a good water conditioner, then it's a level playing field.
 

Byron

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I don't think anyone here is suggesting we not use water conditioners. The question asked by @Myraan in post #30 was, do the nitrifying bacteria come from the tap water. And the answer is yes. If the bacteria were not in the tap water, regardless of chlorine/chloramine levels, you would never be able to have the bacteria establish themselves in a new aquarium unless you seed the tank.

As for rinsing filter media under the tap, I am always clear to say that this has no issues provided the tank is established (not just cycled, but established), and is biologically balanced. There are more nitrifying bacteria in the substrate of such a tank than in the filter. You can (or should be able to) shut the filter off with no ammonia/nitrite issues. And some might be surprised at just how few are the nitrifying bacteria in most filters anyway; they get smothered by the waste bacteria, that is what all that brown/black sludge is about. And of course, having some fast-growing plants negates all of this fussing.
 

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