Bacteria in a Bottle

  • Lammergeier
  • Lammergeier's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Gold Boarder
  • Gold Boarder
  • Posts: 1199
  • Thank you received: 185

Lammergeier created the topic: Bacteria in a Bottle

I'm very good at procrastinating, so I thought I'd look into this and see what I could find instead of doing actual work, because data analysis SUCKS and I needed a distraction. For what it's worth, I don't like these bacteria in a bottle products and don't use them myself, but for the sake of science I've spent the afternoon researching to try and gather some evidence regarding the usefulness of these products. I'm making the assumption that 1: These products all contain similar stuff, and 2: if one's useless, they probably all are. The product I looked at is called "Nutrafin Cycle" chosen only because it seems to have the most information available online regarding its ingredients than other common ones.

Anyway, this product is advertised to supposedly contain both Nitrosomonas (converts ammonia to nitrite) and Nitrobacter (nitrite to nitrate) strains of denitrifying bacteria. While anecdotal, this person here claims that their exact listed ingredients are (as they contacted nutrafin and requested this information): "nitrosomonas europa, nitrobacter wingogradsky, bacillus subtilis, bacillus lichenformis, pseudomonas stutzeri." as the MSDS for Nutrafin cycle says nothing more than that it contains denitrifying bacteria, I'm again trusting a stranger on the internet that they're telling the truth, and assuming that the above is correct.

These are the questions I wanted answers to:
1: Are nitrosomonas europaea and nitrobacter winogradskyi both species of bacteria that actually cycle a tank? Are there others?
2: How much bacteria is actually in a bottle of this stuff, and is this concentration of bacteria enough to immediately (or very quickly) cycle a tank assuming an 'average' bioload in said tank, or is it only enough to 'seed' the tank with said bacteria? In other words - how quickly do these bacteria divide, and is the concentration of bacteria in the bottle enough to immediately cycle a tank?
3: Can this bacteria survive extended periods of time in anaerobic conditions prior to use (as it's bottled)? If so, for how long, and under what conditions? (Temp etc).
4: What do those other bacteria species do?
5: Are there any health risks to fish if using this product?
6: Taking into account all of the above, is this stuff worth buying?

These are the answers I've found, using (predominately anyway) peer reviewed journal articles and the like (my degree's gotta be useful for something right? :P)

1: Involvement in Tank Cycling:
Nitrosomonas europaea is indeed one of the (many!) species of bacteria that oxidise ammonia to nitrites in freshwater aquariums. Interestingly enough however, this very hard-to-read paper found that populations of nitrosomonas species varied based on the ammonia concentration in freshwater aquaria, with nitrosomonas europaea only being predominant in higher concentrations, and nitrosomonas marina being the most efficient at oxidising ammonia, and most commonly found in environments with lower levels of ammonia.
Regarding nitrobacter winogradskyi, it is (links to a pdf by the way) one of the species of bacteria that oxidises nitrite to nitrates, but again, it's one of many. Multiple species of the genus Nitrobacter and Nitrospira seem to be involved in this process, with Nitrospira predominating in high nitrite concentration environments (see here )

2: Bacteria Concentration:
I haven't been able to find out how much bacteria they put in the bottles as a % or by volume, sorry, so I can't answer this question fully. However, I did find that Nitrosomonas europaea takes several days to undergo cell division (see here ), and Nitrobacter bacteria also take at MINIMUM 8 hours to divide, up to several days depending on the species.
In addition, someone emailed Nutrafin asking about whether it cycles the tank instantly or not here . It's an interesting read, but particularly this portion:
" The transition time between these population explain the lag, can take few weeks to adjust. To prevent these lag weekly seeding of nitrfyers consortium will reduce that lag time by increase theamont of appropriated bacteria when these shifts occurs."
This would indicate to me that no, there isn't enough bacteria in the bottle to immediately cycle a tank (assuming it works correctly).

3: Survival in anaerobic conditions:
In a word, yes - both N. europaea and N. winogradskyi can survive in anoxic/anaerobic conditions, but this doesn't mean that both could survive in a bottle. While both are aerobic bacteria (they use oxygen as a last 'step' in the formation of ATP, basically), both can use other compounds in place of oxygen in anaerobic conditions. N. europaea can use nitrite in place of oxygen (see here ), provided that there is a supply of nitrite. N. winogradskyi can use nitrate in anaerobic respiration, and while it doesn't form endospores (neither does europaea), it can survive long periods of starvation, and a related species can survive 2 years without water (again, see first winogradskyi source).
The main question I would have is how N. europaea can respire anaerobically without a source of nitrite (or source of ammonia to convert to nitrite to use in anaerobic respiration), and if there is nitrite in this product, that raises lots more questions regarding the safety of this product in an aquarium.

4: Other Bacteria:
Bacillus subtilis seems to be a probiotic (that can cause illness in humans if immunocompromised - see here ). Bacillus licheniformis breaks down proteins, and may also have some denitrification activity (though it is predominately anaerobic so likely not in aquaria ( here ) maybe this is where the nitrite for N. europaea comes from???
Finally, Pseudomonas stutzeri is another denitrifying bacteria. It actually converts nitrates to atmospheric nitrogen gas (N2). The catch? It's primarily anaerobic so probably wouldn't survive in an aquarium in significant numbers(see here ).

5: Health Risks
There doesn't really seem to be, aside from the fact that Bacillus subtilis *can* cause illness if immuno-compromised. Not an issue with healthy fish, of course, but something to be aware of if you're adding bacteria to your tank. Same applies to P. stutzeri, actually.

6: Is it worth buying?

That's up to you. There do appear to be species of bacteria in this product that do oxidise ammonia and nitrites to nitrates, but these products have a slew of potential problems:

N. europaea is most active in high ammonia concentrations, and N. winogradskyi is most active in low nitrite concentrations. You have one that oxidises ammonia, that isn't predominant naturally until ammonia is at a high level in your tank, and decreases in numbers as ammonia concentration falls. This is coupled with an oxidiser of nitrite that isn't predominant naturally in a high concentration of nitrite. That just doesn't seem like a good combination for starting a cycle in a tank, to me, though perhaps this is only applicable if they are competing with other Nitrosomonas and/or Nitrobacter strains.

Additionally, it's unclear whether N. europaea is even able to survive in a bottle - it can survive in anaerobic conditions, but without either oxygen or nitrite it can't produce ATP. Maybe it can survive in the same way as N. winogradskyi, but I couldn't find info on that. If it does survive, it raises the possibility that there is nitrite in this product, so by adding it you're adding nitrites to your aquarium. If this bacteria can't survive in the bottle (and if it has no survival mechanisms like N. winogradskyi and has nothing to use in anaerobic respiration), then this product is entirely worthless.

This product (and I'm presuming the other brands) contains other types of bacteria that at best are useless in your tank, and at worst may cause illness in already weakened fish (like say... fish that were in an uncycled tank), and 2 of these 3 bacteria are primarily anaerobic so probably won't do anything anyway.

Finally, to top it all off, it also seems as though even Nutrafin reps themselves admit that you need to add this product for a number of weeks to have a stable cycle, which basically means that to have a stable cycle, you need to wait for a stable cycle to start on its own.

Make of that what you will. I hope some people find this interesting, as it was a lot of fun researching this, and I learned a lot more about the bacteria that keep our fish alive than I did previously.

Tl;dr: Just read from point 6 onwards.
#384118
The following user(s) said Thank You: Poseidon2.0

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • OFL
  • OFL's Avatar
  • Offline
  • Administrator
  • Administrator
  • Founder of OFL
  • Posts: 13309
  • Karma: 38
  • Thank you received: 414

OFL replied the topic: Bacteria in a Bottle

I think this is quite an in-depth subject And it's probably something a marine biologist would be qualified to really answer all these in-depth questions. I have used this stuff before on a very small tank, but never a large tank containing Oscars. My argument is that as far as I am aware, it is not possible to instantly cycle and aquarium. It takes time for the necessary bacteria to populate the filtration system, simply pouring a bottle of the stuff in will not establish a biological filter instantly. Until someone gives me conclusive proof then I will never believe any different.

However, if they are using the free swimming bacteria then it is possible that using this stuff works. In other words the free swimming bacteria will consume the ammonia that is building up in the water, this will protect the fish. But you will still have to wait for the biological filter to develop properly. That is the way I understand it.

I may not always be right, but I am always the BOSS :-)
#384119

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • Lammergeier
  • Lammergeier's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Gold Boarder
  • Gold Boarder
  • Posts: 1199
  • Thank you received: 185

Lammergeier replied the topic: Bacteria in a Bottle

I'm not a marine biologist, but I do have a degree in zoology/biochemistry so I'm hoping I was able to put it to use a little haha.

I've edited for clarification - I should have said "very quickly cycle", sorry, because one of the main claims of these products is that they speed up the cycling process considerably, and it seems to me that it's one of those sneaky borderline things. It isn't really 'wrong' because it does seem to *actually* contain denitrifying bacteria that may actually survive the bottling process, but it certainly isn't an accurate description of what the product actually does, either... not by a long shot.
#384120

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • Posts: 3036
  • Thank you received: 266

daddadoo7 replied the topic: Re:Bacteria in a Bottle

#384122

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • Posts: 1926
  • Thank you received: 158

Goranothos replied the topic: Bacteria in a Bottle

Thanks for the interesting post, Lammergeier.

I have used Tetra Safe Start one time, when I first started my 150 gallon tank a year and a half or so ago. I was doing a fish in cycle and I didn't have another established tank to seed my filter with, so I thought "what the hell" and added the Safe Start. From what I remember, my cycle still took several weeks, though it did take a long time to start seeing an ammonia reading, possibly because the fish were so small in such a large tank.

Thankfully, I now have a fully cycled tank with a large filter full of bio media that I can use to seed the filters in future tanks, so I don't plan to purchase any more bacteria in a bottle products.

“Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the face.” -Mike Tyson
#384123

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • Posts: 3036
  • Thank you received: 266

daddadoo7 replied the topic: Re:Bacteria in a Bottle

I have used safestart twice.....once from scratch (after meds killed off bb) and once to speed up a tank that was already reading nitrates but was taking g forever to fully cycle. The stuff worked like a charm both times.
#384125

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • Lammergeier
  • Lammergeier's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Gold Boarder
  • Gold Boarder
  • Posts: 1199
  • Thank you received: 185

Lammergeier replied the topic: Bacteria in a Bottle

No worries, Goranothos!

@daddadoo: I'm certainly not going to say that these products are literally equivalent to snake oil. In fact, evidence does seem to suggest that they do actually contain at least some live denitrifying bacteria. However, I take big issue with the claims that are often made that these products can actually substitute a natural cycle of a tank when they are way too deficient in the different types of denitrifying bacteria to come close. That doesn't mean they don't cycle ammonia > nitrite > nitrate, but I think they're a poor substitute for the real thing.
Anyway, the example Goranothos provided is one example of where using something like this really isn't that bad of an idea, but in the thread that inspired this one some people were claiming that they used this as a complete substitute for waiting for a proper cycle which is what I take most issue with. As with a lot of things, the truth of these products seems to lie somewhere in the middle, though in my personal opinion I think there are too many drawbacks to these products to make them worthwhile, and the borderline false advertising that surrounds them irritates me.

This is pure speculation on my end, but I actually wonder whether using a product like Nutrafin Cycle could permanently alter the concentrations of different species of denitrifying bacteria in a tank, and if it did, would that affect the ability of the biofilter to neutralise ammonia and nitrite? For example, if you had an overabundance of the inefficient bacteria that oxidises ammonia only at high concentrations (like what is present in Nutrafin Cycle), then your ammonia concentration would always rise higher than it should before the bacteria oxidises it if this species was dominant in your tank.
Colonisation of the biofilter is surface area dependent, if one species had an 'early advantage' compared to another species of bacteria, I could certainly see one species being out-competed by the other. If the inefficient denitrifying bacteria had this advantage, it would leave less room for the more efficient ammonia oxidising bacteria that established filters rely on. Just an example, but I could definitely see that potentially affecting the stability of a biofilter quite a bit if that does happen.
#384126

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • Posts: 3036
  • Thank you received: 266

daddadoo7 replied the topic: Re:Bacteria in a Bottle

Lem I definitly agree that there is always a gray or middle area. I tried stability on my 55 gal and it never fully cycled so it would be easy for me to say the product doesnt work but one of our members sosban Bach has had great success with it as well allot of others stating it worked (on the internet) so I chalk that up to either user error on my part or a bad batch. I have no idea about bacteria competing with each other but I can say and this was the biggest factor for me I was basically using a clown loach and yellow acara as the ammonia source and neither shiwed any signs of stress as I stated in the thread I attached. I wouldn't need the product again because I have plenty of established media but in a pinch or disaster of some sorts I would definitly use it again. One example would be quarantining a fish with an uncycled filter.
Think about how many times we get a new member asking whats wrong with his fish when we later come to find that the filters arent cycled. Imo that person we be far better off trying something other than exposing his/her oscar to cycling process
#384128

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • Lammergeier
  • Lammergeier's Avatar Topic Author
  • Offline
  • Gold Boarder
  • Gold Boarder
  • Posts: 1199
  • Thank you received: 185

Lammergeier replied the topic: Re:Bacteria in a Bottle

That's fair enough, but out of curiosity - why not use Seachem safe/prime in excess instead (applies to your example of the newbie with the uncycled tank as well)? It seems to be commonly accepted that it (albeit temporarily) neutralises ammonia and nitrites by binding them into a non-toxic form for fish for a day or so. In a pinch I'd be much more inclined to take that route (adding more safe as needed, and doing w/cs to keep the ammonia at ~0.5ppm) than use these bottled bacteria things. Assuming safe or prime actually do what they advertise anyway... I should look into that more lol.
#384131

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

  • Posts: 3036
  • Thank you received: 266

daddadoo7 replied the topic: Re:Bacteria in a Bottle

Using the safe/prime wont help in cycling th filters which I know you already know....I would have continually dose while waiting for the bb to 're establish which could take weeks/months. The cl was on the brink of death from an ich outbreakand the meds(lessened learned) My son loves that fish....it was a hail mary pass in an attempt to get the tank recycled and save the fish....all explained in the thread I attached in my earlier comment lol
#384132

Please Log in or Create an account to join the conversation.

Moderators: Big-KenDRACO
Time to create page: 0.150 seconds