Quoth Emily <email@example.com
> on Sat, 20 Mar 2004 21:49:47 GMT,
First, about that gravel. Nothing magical about it. Most of the
beneficial bacteria that convert toxic ammonia (fish waste) to
less-toxic (but still quite dangerous) nitrite, and nitrite to much more
nearly benign nitrAte, are lithotropic. They like rocks. They need
water, and they need oxygen (they're aerobic). The classic undergravel
filter pushes air or water through a bed of gravel, counting on the
gravel to provide surface area for the bacteria to grow on and the air
or water movement to provide the oxygen. Other biofilter systems may
look very different (sponges, biowheels) but are all using the same
principle: provide habitat, water and oxygen for the filter bacteria,
and move the tank water through this filter so the bacteria can have at
Without "aeration or mechanical filtration" the concern would be how the
gravel bed is getting enough oxygen, and also how the water is kept
moving through the gravel.
You can get fully seeded gravel from any well cycled tank with an
undergravel filter. Indeed, if you have a source you trust (because
after all any undesirable bacteria or fish parasites will also come with
the gravel!) this is possibly the oldest and certainly the simplest way
to start a new tank cycling. More recently people have experimented,
very successfully, with rinsing out well-established filters and adding
the liquid "gunk" to a new tank. It's been reported to be much faster
than the gravel-seeding method but has the same caveats -- you get a bit
of whatever was in that tank, including nasties if present. Read about
it here: http://www.koivet.com/html/articles/articles_results.php?article_id=64&category=15&search_term=ammonia
You can purchase various products alleged to have the necessary
bacteria. I consider these snake oil myself, because I have doubts about
the bacteria surviving in the bottle while it sits on the shelf for
months; the real snake oil, though, is that these bacteria are just
about everywhere and will show up in your tanks whether you "add" them
There are one or two "cycle bacteria" products that do seem to work.
They rely on being very fresh and shipped directly to you very quickly
-- and they are incredibly expensive. Not because the bacteria are rare
or innovative, but because of the timing involved to get them to you
while still numerous and active.
There is one other product you might look into here, http://www.koivet.com/html/articles/articles_results.php?article_id=33&category=13&search_term=ammonia
Not at all sure what this is or how it works, but it's clearly NOT your ordinary filter bacteria! As an innovation, it seems to me like
wonderful stuff, but it will never replace the traditional biofilter.
I am doing a high school research project that involves keeping
some fish (specifically, Siamese Fighting Fish). The one that I bought
comes in a small plastic container, with some apparently "special" gravel
at the bottom of the tank that I gather is somehow impregnated with >nitrifying bacteria.
Hmm. Is this a small cube thing sold with the gravel, a tiny plant,
water and fish already in? You may have an "aqua baby" or something
I don't approve of 'em, but this is a science project -- a great place
to do your own research! I would STRONGLY SUGGEST that you purchase a
water testing kit from the local fish store. Make a chart and test daily
for ammonia, nitrite, nitrate, and I'd love to see you test for
dissolved oxygen too since the manufacturer claims no aeration is
needed. In aquaria, we strive for ZERO ammonia and ZERO nitrites, and
keep nitrates low with regular water changes (and lots of plants help as
well). I've always assumed this is true in nature as well, since in
nature there are far fewer fish than we stock in our tanks. But since
you have that test kit you can gather samples from local rivers, creeks,
lakes, ponds, whatever's convenient -- and test to see if this is true.
I don't know how much leeway you have on the project. If you have
leeway, I would do an experiment. Keep one of these small containers
exactly as supplied, doing exactly the maintenance the manufacturer
recommends, and test daily for all the things mentioned above.
Meanwhile, purchase or borrow a small conventional filtered tank (a
ten-gallon tank with an undergravel filter is probably the best bang for
your buck), a bunch of plants (anacharis/elodea, cabomba, frill plant,
and parrot feather are readily available and cheap; hornwort will work
as well, but is harder to find and tends to "shed" leaves that clog up filters), and another betta setup from the same place you got your first
one. Hold off on the betta until you have the new tank cycled (you've
gotten good references for that already), then buy the betta and add the
fish and plant to the cycled tank. Now you have a control, a tank using conventional methods, to test alongside of the little container.
I really think you will find that the small container does not acheive
or at least does not maintain 0 ammonia and 0 nitrites, and that you
will see a higher level of dissolved oxygen in the conventional tank as
well. But you can find out, and report those results. This would be
great if the project requirements allow you to study whether or not an innovation actually works.
In innovation in general, read up on the cycle and the nitrifying
bacteria and the methods currently used to bring everything together (undergravel filters, wet/dry sponge filters, and biowheels are the ones
I know about; there may be others). Is there another way that hasn't
been tried yet, that might be more effective or maybe just easier to set
I would love to learn of your results, and I think many others would
also if you'd like to post them here.
Only know that there is no spork.
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