The Science Of Bottled Bacteria For "cycling" Aquaria

No, I am not missing your point, I think you are not understanding what your point is. What you are saying is that credentials only refers to degrees. But I do not agree with that definition. Somebody without a degree can become an expert from years of hands on experience which then becomes a big part of their  credentials. In this hobby food examples are the people who speak ay the big weekend events. I would use a real world example to illustrate. Lets conisder the biannual All Aquarium Catfish Convention held in the Washington, DC area. Here is a link to the 2012 speakers.
Now I have met a few of these people and chatted with them. Every single one is an acknowledged expert in their field, but only one has academic degrees. Now now lets start to go back in time. At some point in time all of these folks were just starting out, The difference is when Mark Perez graduated with his degrees and began his professional career in aquatic related areas, he was already a trained pro ready to move into the profession he spent his life doing.
Ian Fuller is an internationally respected cory breeder. But read his bio on the site where it says
Ian worked as a precision toolmaker for forty-six years before moving into the aquatic trade in 2007 and is currently working as fish department manager in one of the UK's top independent pet stores.
So I would ask you at what stage of Ian's life did he transition from hobbyist to expert? And one can have similar discussions about the others. Here is what I would suggest one can do. Go to Google Scholar, one by one enter the name of each of the five expert speakers on the page linked above and see what comes back.
Here is what you will find, Dr. Perez, the only one of the five with a graduate degree in ichthyology, is a co-author of a lot of papers in scientific journals, many peer reviewed. The other 4 are not the authors of any. Which of the five do you think has the broadest most in depth knowledge? If Dr. Perez and Heiko Bleher disagree on something about the biology, genetics etc. of fish, knowing nothing else about them than their bios, who would you be inclined to believe has the right answer?
Let me offer this from the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists:
Few careers in ichthyology are open to people who have only a high school diploma. A bachelor's degree is typically the minimum requirement for technical-support positions. Most research and teaching positions require a master's or doctoral degree, with many, particularly those at colleges, universities, and major research institutions, requiring a Ph.D.
So yes, it is possible for people like Ian, Eric, Hans and Heiko to become fairly respected experts in their respective areas. But none of them has the breadth and depth of general knowledge and experience regarding fish etc. of Dr. Perez.
Or let me give you another example- Altum angels. There is much controversy on this topic in terms of the various places they inhabit, how they got there,  if Altums in rivers seemingly unconnected are related. There are questions regarding breeding of Altums. Now if one listens to Heiko Bleher, he says one thing, which is his opinion. But other experts contradict what Heiko claims. To settle the controversy once and for all there is a major genetic study being done. Genetic samples are being collected and analyzed to find the answers. but the people doing the research are not folks like Heiko, Hans etc. While they may contribute by providing fish for study, the actual nitty gritty research is being done by university trained ichthyologists and biologists in labs. The answer will come from the scientists and not the self trained experts. Those "field" experts may be the ones who capture and supply many of the specimens for the study, but they lack the scientific training and access to the required facilities to do the work that actually provides the answers.
In the end, when it comes down to the real science, to the chemistry, to the biology, to the physics etc., it is the university trained people doing the work, not hobbyist experts. I would point out that there are a lot of areas where no amount of experience will ever get one to the level of trained experts. How many self taught surgeons are there? How many self taught lawyers?
Daize- I assumed your husband had earned at least an undergraduate degree in chemistry. Now you are saying something else? My assumption regarding his knowledge was based on what you stated- he earned his degree in chemistry but doesn't use it. But I will bet you this. Lets consider an aquarium related topic- pH and buffering a tanks water to a desired level. If one has to change their pH and keep it steady there, we typically use some sort of a buffer solution. We may use things like SeaChem Discus Buffer, API Proper pH etc. but how many of us know how and why they work? So here is a link to a page explaining the basic chemistry of buffers.
To save time here is a snippet. See if you understand what its saying and then see if your better half does.
How do buffer solutions work?
A buffer solution has to contain things which will remove any hydrogen ions or hydroxide ions that you might add to it - otherwise the pH will change. Acidic and alkaline buffer solutions achieve this indifferent ways.
Acidic buffer solutions
We'll take a mixture of ethanoic acid and sodium ethanoate as typical.
Ethanoic acid is a weak acid, and the position of this equilibrium will be well to the left:

Adding sodium ethanoate to this adds lots of extra ethanoate ions. According to Le Chatelier's Principle, that will tip the position of the equilibrium even further to the left.
I think he may even still remember a what Le Chatelier's Principle is...
Since you ask, he once knew Le Chatelier's Principle but has long since forgotten.  I probably knew it at some point as well.   The rest of the chemistry made equally good sense to both of us, although I'm sure that neither of us can hope to understand it in the depth that a practicing chemist would.
I'm just warning that just because a forum poster can boast a paper degree doesn't make them qualified to speak with any great authority over anyone else.  I'll rest my case now out of fear of sending the thread off on a tangent :)
daizeUK said:
I can see both sides I think.  Tcamos' point is that we should rely on the scientific research and not be concerned with who has used the product. 
That is what I was trying to convey. For selling and buying a product endorsements such as "so-and-so use the product" are a time honored form of advertising but it does amount to just marketing no matter who it is that uses it. I obfuscated my point a bit by coming to the defense of aquarists, that was an aside and not related to the point I was trying to make.
I think it's well established that there are bacterial products on the market and that people buy them and use them and that some get used by large organizations. That may impress the mind confidence but doesn't answer the specifics regarding the quality of research from one product to another and just how many times the experiments have been successfully replicated by others. This thread is titled "The science of bottle bacteria for cycling aquaria"...not the who's who of bacterial product usage. Useful information in a different thread for sure but doesn't specifically address the science. That's all I was trying to say.
While your point is interesting, it ignores certain facts and considerations. Not all science has to come from lab type research. Let me offer an example. Most hobbyists use the most common test kits. API is one popular brand, Tetra, Hagen etc. are others. We also know there is much debate on aquatic forums about the reliabiliity and accuracy of the various kits.
How can the average hobbyist know if these kits are any good? Well one way is to investigate who might be using them and well as what sort of kits lab grade research uses. If Hobby kits are indeed accurate enough to use for lab research, that is easy to determine. Start to read studies that test for the same things and focus on the methods section where they describe what equipment is used and what test procedures were followed. How many peer reviewed studies does one have to read where they see no hobby kits used to test for the major criteria before one can conclude that hobby kits are not used for scientific research?
Next, while doing the checking to see who isn't using the hobby kits one will also find out what testing methods are being used. this will produce a list of manufacturers which seem to predominate. So by merely asking the question: Are aquarium hobby test kits used for scientific research we not only got the answer No, but we also discovered what the good kits are, something we did not set out to discover. For the sake of this discussion lets say we discovered that 39% of the research measuring ammonia as a key factor relied on Hach ammonia test kits.
I believe it is legitimate to conclude, without actually doing stringent bench tests, that Hach ammonia test kits are more accurate and reliable than any hobby level ammonia kit. However, if one then wants to know by what factor a Hach kit is more accurate than each of the specific hobby brands, the bench test approach musr be used.
Now apply the above to packaged cycling bacteria. If one can survey the more mission critical incidences of using bottled bacteria, it should be possible to determine what products are and are not being used. For these products, the mission critical users become the bigger dollar operations. Individual fish keepers are not really relevant. It is the large public aquariums, the aquaculture industry and even drinking and waste water treatment industries. All of these industries have access to or on staff biologists, chemists, ichtyologists etc. They have the highest level of expertise when compared to individual hobbyists relying on other hobbyists.
Sp just as surveying lab equipment preferences once can reach valid conclusions about which general classes of test kits are more or less accurate, one can use similar information about what products predominate the mission crital aquatic applications and which ones seem to be absent.
All one needs to do to insure reasonable conclusions can be drawn is to insure that the sampling population represents the general population. This can be done by sampling a large enough representative portion and sampling over time. It is possible to remove bias from this sort of research. This sort of research model is used for long term medical studies to determining if a class of drugs used for years may or may not effect something like the occurrence of dementia in seniors.
In terms of the bottled bacteria, if one can see it being used repeatedly by lab researchers, public aquariums, aquaculture facilities over time, it is legitimate to ask/research why. And when you ask why there are only a few answers one can get. many of them have nothing to do with sciences, such as they were bribed to use it. But the most important reason is one that can be confirmed. They used it because they believed do so would produce the desired results. We all know if you need have a well cycled setup if its going to have expensive loads of fish added. If the major aquarium tank or aquaculture pond is not mostly to fully cycled when the full fish load goes in, we all know happens. Lots of dead fish, lots of bad publicity, some people lose their jobs and if they used a product that failed, that product gets a bad rap. Its  like seeing evidence of fire by finding ashes and smoke damage.
So merely using the science of statistics and observation, it is not difficult to study the available literature to look for certan information. Scientific study is not limited to what is conducted in a lab.
TwoTankAmin said:
While your point is interesting, it ignores certain facts and considerations. Not all science has to come from lab type research. 
Well...that was actually my second point that got me off track.
Thanks for starting this thread Daize - it helped me a lot!
As a simple-minded hobbyist I'd just like to say that I managed to follow most of this discussion altho I did find a few of the posts were very long-winded and confusing to say the least, but maybe that was the intention. Am sure the information was spot-on however for me it very soon dissolved into blah blah blah I'm afraid.
Daize and tcamos - thanks for an interesting debate - am sure it will be a long one, and one I will watch with interest.
It takes a long time to digest and go through the links and documents but that's what the scientific section is for, the blah blah blah. ;)
I guess so tcamos, but some (like you and Daize) can manage to convey scientific principles so that the rest of us mere mortals can at least follow what you mean, whereas some seem to get fugged up in all the verbology.
Anyway, I am enjoying the debate so far - thanks again for starting it Daize!
I'm glad you found it interesting and I agree; it has digressed somewhat from the original intent of scientific analysis! :)
I am honestly surprised that there have been no counter-arguments to challenge anything that has been discussed so far.  Sometimes I see people in other parts of the forum stating that they don't believe in bacteria-in-a-bottle products but when I invite them to come here and contribute an alternative perspective to the debate they don't show up!
For my part, I am by now thoroughly convinced that some bacterial products definitely do have the potential to work exactly as advertised.  I still think there is a lot of confusion among different brands regarding how effective each is when compared to competing products.  Some of them claim to use different methods such as heterotrophic bacteria instead of autotrophs (i.e. Seachem Stability) and I would still be interested to delve into these products in further detail.  Then there's the Pure Evolution Balls which seem to be recommended by anecdotal evidence but we haven't touched on at all.
Well funny you should say that Daize! I'm actually contemplating getting some of those! However anything I do with them wouldn't be very scientific as I'm 3 weeks into cycling and just can't get rid of that last bit of ammonia in 12 hrs - 21hrs yes, but not 12! Heyho!
I have tried Aquasafe for the last couple of days as it says on the label it has bioextracts to "support the development of beneficial bacteria for clear water". If tonight's tests are still slightly positive I might get some Evolution balls to try.
daizeUK said:
I am honestly surprised that there have been no counter-arguments to challenge anything that has been discussed so far. 
I think it's because this thread isn't about opinion. It's not enough in this thread to simply no believe or even to believe. This thread requires "why".
I'm glad there is interest in exploring new subjects. I changed the name of this section of the forum to "the think tank" to hopefully demonstrate that it's a place to discuss new ideas and ponder the future of the hobby.
Sorry, science give you a headache mama. I suggest you simply skip over my posts in the future.
daize- re your speculation about potential bias and the issue of freshness in the patent filing where they compare Dr. Hovanec's mix vs the 4 commercial ones. A bit of detective work in reading the filing lead me to a comparison of the results listed in Tables 10 and 13.
In table 10 they were showing the results of testing the actual bacteria which lead to the specific strains in Dr. Hovanec's mix. Two of the tests were on bacteria first stored for 188 days in a bottle kept in the dark before they were added to the test tanks. In Table 13 they compare Dr. Hovanec's mixes (likeley fresh?) to the commercial ones. Just insert the results from Table 10 for Rtr3 and Rtr4 (the stored bacteria) you will still see those numbers are still pretty good. And how do we know that the commercial additives tested were in the bottle for a few days, weeks or months before they were used?
What makes the results most interesting is that for the commercial products they ran two different dosing levels. The first was as per the directions from the manufacturer and the second was at 3 times that amount. And the one thing nobody can argue in this regard- if you have the right bacteria then the more of them you can start with, the more ammonia/nitrite they can process. And the more they can process, the faster the cycle should establish. Anybody who has done a few fishless cycles knows this, you don't have to be a scientist. So why do several commercial mixes do better at lower doses?
{0131] The results show that the Rtr5 and Rtr7 mixtures were capable of establishing nitrification in newly set-up aquaria much faster than currently available commercial mixtures and aquaria not dosed with any mixture. Complete nitrification was established in 8 days with the Rtr7 mixture and 10 days with the Rtr5 mixture (Table 13). The closest treatments to these were the Fritz-Zyme® at the normal dosing level, Cycle® at three times the normal dosing level, and Stress Zyme® at the normal dosage level all of which took 22 days (Table 13). The Rtr5 and Rtr7 mixtures were 2.2 to 2.8 times faster at establishing nitrification then these other mixtures.
What I wonder is does Dr. Tim's One and Only contain a mix of Rtr5 and Rtr7 or just one of them? I am also curious as to why the patent was obtained in Europe before America?
Sorry, science give you a headache mama. I suggest you simply skip over my posts in the future.
I'm not going to be drawn TTA however I will say it's not the science that gives me a headache tho I do follow some of your advice.
TwoTankAmin said:
What I wonder is does Dr. Tim's One and Only contain a mix of Rtr5 and Rtr7 or just one of them? I am also curious as to why the patent was obtained in Europe before America?
I'm a little surprised that this hasn't appeared in the research. Other than it might be necessary to protect the patent. As for why Europe I actually think, as big as it is here, the aquarium hobby is even bigger in Europe so that might be why.
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tcamos- I am inclined to think it contains both. My reasoning is the results in the patent filing show one drops ammonia better and the other drops nitrite better. So the combination should actually get the fastest results I would think. But I would still like to know for sure.
Also, if one compares the numbers for the two mixes in the commercial section to the numbers for the two mixes that were first bottled for 118 days in the first section, you can get a feel for what the difference likely is for his freshly produced bacteria vs that kept in a bottle for close to 4 months.
And now here is a challenge for all the folks posting in this thread or following it. Can anybody find patents filed/granted for any of the other nitrifying bacterial additives. Is there anything out there at all?

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