Biological Filtration in Aquariums: Biofiltration Technology
-- the aquarist is not overfeeding (based on what the biofilter can handle, not what the fish will consume)
All marine life add waste products to the aquarium. Ammonia is released directly from the fish’s gills. Complex organic matter such as dead algae, worms and other debris are broken down into other substances including ammonia. Invert, flake and frozen foods are digested and add to the ammonia load. Ammonia is harmful to fish and invertebrates. Fortunately a natural two-step process, called biological filtration, occurs in our aquariums. Biofiltration involves two types of nitrifying bacteria. In the first step, ammonia is converted to nitrite (also harmful), by ammonia oxidizing bacteria. In the second step, nitrite is converted to nitrate, by nitrite oxidizing bacteria. In reef aquariums, nitrate is removed biologically by algae or converted to nitrogen gas by denitrifying bacteria living in the rock and sand. This process is called because ammonia, nitrite and nitrate are all forms of nitrogen and it is directly related to New Tank Syndrome. In a mature aquarium the nitrogen cycle runs continuously. Ammonia and nitrite levels are kept so low
So if nitrifying bacteria are everywhere, really tough and don’t need a lot of special conditions to thrive, shouldn’t it be easy to start a biological filter and eliminate NTS? Starting the biofilter is easy. Waiting for it to mature is the hard part. Novice aquarists, eager to build their reef, often stock the aquarium too quickly. This extends New Tank Syndrome and stresses the aquarium livestock. Nitrifiers are very slow growers compared to other types of bacteria. It can take four to six weeks for the biofilter to become fully functional. Let’s look at several ways to start the biological filter and see how they work.
Today, the term “bio” is in everybody’s word usage: bio food, bio fuel, bio degradable, etc. The aquatic hobby has not been overlooked and aquarium biofiltration and biofiltration media are mentioned everywhere. Rather than going into the pros and cons of various media or the basic chemistry of the nitrogen cycle, this article is dedicated to the biofilter processes that happen in nature and have implications for our aquariums.For aquarium biofiltration to be most effective, filters should be running undisturbed for as long as possible. Filter media that remain passable and have a variety of pore sizes are best. Given that we like to influence the water parameters depending on the species we keep, and thus make water soft, hard, etc, the filter media should be chemically inert, so that it does not affect the water chemistry by itself.Biofilms are communities of microorganisms (see below) in which cells are embedded in a self-produced matrix of extracellular polymeric substance (EPS), which is often called “slime”. The cells adhere to each other and/or the surface. Biofilms are a system/network of microorganisms that adapts to environmental conditions. They form on living or non-living surfaces and are prevalent in natural and artificial settings. EPS is a polymeric conglomeration generally composed of extracellular biopolymers in various structural forms. Biofilms are the basis of substrate-bound aquarium biofiltration.I enjoy helping people with their aquariums and preparing a safe, happy and healthy environment for their fish. While I don't claim to know it all, I do enjoy sharing what I do know. Hang On Back filters (HOB) often have filter media inserts you're supposed to use for a month, then replace with a new one. This is actually one of the worst things you can do for a healthy aquarium. Most of your beneficial bacteria live in your filter, so by throwing it away and replacing it, you are throwing away a large portion of your bio-filter. This can lead to mini-cycles, ammonia spikes and sick fish. Never throw away a filter pad or media unless has deteriorated beyond use.
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