Yeast CO2/humates/Aiken's plenum

From: "M. Pearlscott" <pearlsco at u_washington.edu>
Date: Fri, 14 Feb 1997 01:19:25 -0800 (PST)
Subject: Re: Yeast in DIY CO2


I have experimented with different wine yeasts, and found that the extent
to which they will last longer is only a couple of days.  Of course, if
you were to dilute the solution of alcohol they were in, and add more
sugar they would continue to make CO2 longer.  I also tried using
different juices with the wine yeast, which gave me a about the same
results as using water with the wine yeast.  The product of the wine yeast
and juice is drinkable (if you use sterilizing tabs), but doesn't compare
to *real* wine.  It's more like a cooler.  Moving onward...

Okay, now the reason that most people use regular table sugar is that it
is easily available, and most already have some at home.  Same goes for
the bread yeast.  Also, these ingredients are cheap... though I don't
remember the wine yeast being very expensive.  If I remember, I actually
used less wine yeast than bread yeast per volume of liquid.  Hmm...


- ------
pearlsco at u_washington.edu
The more people I meet, the more I like my plants.

From: "James Purchase" <jpp at inforamp_net>
Date: Fri, 14 Feb 1997 14:27:16 -0500
Subject: Re: Humic Acids in Nature vs the Aquarium (Long)

Hi Everyone,

As some of you may recall, last month I was on a tear to find out what
level of Tannins and Humic Acids existed in tropical blackwater biotopes.
Some companies (and authors) seem to think that a certain level of these
substances are beneficial (why else would so many companies be peddling
"Blackwater Extracts"?) while others caution that these substances can be
harmful if present in excess.

My query was an attempt to determine what the natural levels of these types
of substances were. The fish have evolved over thousands of years in these
types of waters and I felt that if we had an idea of the concentrations in
Nature we would be in a better position to deal with them in an aquarium.

Several people on the list came forward with information, my thanks to
those who did. I also contacted several companies which produce "Blackwater
Extracts". Unfortunately, none of them bothered to even acknowledge my
query (Shame on you, Tetra/Second Nature!!!)  

I finally went to Dupla. Kaspar Horst of Dupla was kind enough to forward
my query to Prof Dr Rolf Geisler, who provided me with a detailed answer.
What follows is the translated text of that response, as prepared for me by
Dupla. Mr. Horst has givn his premission for this material to be placed on
this list.


A special answer for Mr. James Purchase, Toronto:
- ------------------------------------------------------------
Concentration of humic acids and tanning agents in tropical black waters
- ------------------------------------------------------------

Humates in their full sense - and not just humic acids - are an important
buffer systems for typical black waters with extremely low lime contents. A
precise analytical registration of the chemical complexe humates, dark
organic colloids, is very complicated and requires considerable technical
equipment that is only available in a few special laboratories. 

It is much easier to measure the content of "organic substances" and thus
also the humates contained in the water. All organic substances are carbon
linkages. In this way it is possible to determine the DOC (Dissolved
Carbon) or the TOC (Total Organic Carbon). This however requires the use of
gas chromatograph - a very expensive device - and a lot of technical

Since the beginning of tropic limnologic research a relatively simple
measurement method has been used: the determination of the co-called
potassium permanganate consumption (KMNO4-consumption in mg/l). In this
measurement the organic substances are destroyed by means of the oxydizing
agent potassium permanganat, thus becoming measurable. The determination is
carried out by cooking a given quantity of water with a permanganate
of exactly known content for about 10 minutes. For this method one needs a
certain laboratory equipment with chemicals, glass devices and cooking
facility - short: it is quite expensive !

Despite the well-known objections to this not really optimum determination
humates with the permanganate method, also recent tests of tropical fish
waters have been carried out in this way, so to allow comparison with
of former examinations. Unfortunately, there are no conversion factors for
permangante consumption to DOC or vice versa. 

Back to the initial question: Information about the permangante consumption
(sometimes indicated as "oxydisability") in biotops of tropical aquarium
and typical black waters is available. Here some figures: 

KMnO4-consumption in mg/l

up to 12			low, gun-laying data for dringking-water
20 to 56			biotope of Red Neon
26 to 59			biotope of Discus Heckel
13 to 27			biotope of "Brown Discus"
> 100, up to 250 max.	biotope of labyrinth fish is eas- and west (asia)

Now to the most important question: How is it possible to reach a certain
level of humates in the aquarium? 

There are various methods of supplying humates to an aquarium. Known is the
filtering over unfertilized peat, peat extracts, peat pallets, leaves,
oak-tree bark extracts and other preparations containing tanning agents.
These are many possibilities - but one important questions is still
unanswered. How much of the above mentioned substances is needed to reach
values as found in nature. It would be nice to have indications like,
so-and-so much peat granules or so-and-so many ml peat extract on a certain
quantity of water of clearly defined composition produce organic substances
corresponding to so-and-so many mg/l permanganate consumption. Why doesn't
this sort of information exist ?

First, the available sources of humates are not standardized, e.g. peat as
substance differs considerably depending on it's origin and storage place.
Indications such as " ... contains so-and-so many g peat extract" do not
really say anything about the quantity, since the concentration of the
extract is unknown or not indicated - admittedly also difficult to say!
important to know: The harder the water the more ineffective the humic
- - more exactly: the dissolved lime in the water produces undissolvable
calcium humates. So, the higher the water hardness, the higher must be the
supply of humates in order to achieve an acidifying effect. The softer the
water, the less humates are needed and the better the effect. 

Conclusion: As the values of water hardness are worldwide different and the
concentration of humates are not standardized, to make a simple calculation
and state"In order to achieve a Neon water with 25 mg/l permanganate
consumption or a black water for chocolate-guramis with 80 mg/l, procede as
follows ..." Therefore the only things that will help an aquarist are his
experience and a water that is not too hard.

Further literature may be asked for at our editorial department.

> END 

James Purchase
Toronto, Ontario
jpp at inforamp_net


From: David Aiken <d.aiken at eis_net.au>
Date: Sat, 15 Feb 97 06:32:16 -0000
Subject: Re: Need for filtration in planted tanks

Around 15 months ago, in a bid to get my nitrate levels down, I decided 
to steal a leaf from the reef tank crowd and instal a plenum in my tank. 
I don't have any marine tanks but I've always enjoyed Julian Sprung's 
reef notes in FAMA, as well as some of his nasty humour (g), so I bought 
a copy of "The Reef Aquarium" especially for the sections on filtration, 
lighting, and general tank management. I also bought Adey and Loveland's 
"Dynamic Aquaria" for its systems approach though I didn't want to use 
algae scrubbers and I figured they're probably redundant with enough 
higher plants in the tank. I'm definitely the only person I know who 
deliberately set out to start trying to run a plant tank on reef tank 
principles, and I did it because I wasn't happy with much of the material 
in "The Optimum Aquarium". I don't know whether it's just the poor 
quality of the translation but I find it confusing and frequently 
inconsistent. It also didn't give me a grasp of the principles. Just like 
many people on this list like to know what's in their fertilisers, I'd 
like to have some understanding of the biological processes and 
interactions going on in my tank. I'm prepared to say right now that I 
think "The Reef Aquarium" is a better book for planted tanks than "The 
Optimum Aquarium"! I definitely learnt much more in the way of basic 
biological principles that I could apply from Julian Sprung and Charles 
Delbeek's book (and the pictures were better too - don't quite match 
Amano's but that could just be that they have poorer taste in subject 
matter ;-) )!

I rebuilt my 3 ft tank with a UG plate and no uplift tubes, filled it 
with RO water prepared with Kent R/O Right, and reinstalled my filter - 
an internal Eheim sponge filter. At startup nitrates were predictably 
zero and rose gradually. I was surprised to find after 9 months, however, 
that they were up around the 25 ppm level when measured with Dupla's 
nitrate kit. The plenum didn't seem to be working the way I'd hoped. I 
proceeded to bring them down with massive water changes and eventually 
got back around the 4 to 5 ppm mark. That also cut my mild phosphate 

I then decided to bite the bullet and remove my "nitrate farm" - the 
filter sponge. I retained the powerhead for water circulation, and 
eventually added a second smaller power head.

Lighting is 2 Corallife full spectrum daylight tubes (changed from 2 
tritons). They're mounted about 8 inches above the open tank top, and I 
have the mylar film I mentioned in an earlier posting stuck inside the 
reflector housings using double-sided tape. I'd like to use cheaper tubes 
like commercial triphoshor cool whites but I can't find them here in 
Brisbane in 3 foot lengths. Nobody will do an order for 2 or 3 tubes 
either - not a big enough quantity. I'd prefer to add another tube or 
two, or swap to MH lamps, to increase my lighting levels but money is an 
issue at present. I'm using the small Dupla CO2 set up without any 
electronic controllers - just a bubble every 2 or 3 seconds in the bubble 
counter. I don't switch it off at night.

I scrupulously conducted ammonia, nitrite, and nitrate tests weekly for 
several months. Ammonia usually shows a very slight trace of colour on 
whatever test I use - above zero and below the first reading level. 
Definitely not a worry. Nitrite is always zero. Nitrates are holding at 
around the 2 ppm level. pH is around 6.6 to 6.8 and the water is soft at 
around 2 to 3 degrees KH and GH. I've stopped testing weekly and now test 
only every 3 to 4 weeks.

I had some fish deaths around the 1-2 month mark, but this was also 
Christmas/January height of summer in the southern hemisphere. I 
sometimes get tank temperatures of around 32 degrees C at this time of 
year if I leave the tank covered (the heater never switches on when its 
like this and I actually used to remove it from the tank at one time). 
It's always a rough period for my fish and I think that was the issue 

My fish load is now lower than it has ever been in the tank, though I 
would never have regarded it as being really high. Currently I have 9 
cardinal tetras, 3 or 4 pygmy Corydoras, 4 bronze Corydoras, and 3 
otocinclus. The tank is also more heavily planted than ever, and I keep 
adding more. i'm finding I'd rather add a plant than a fish (a big 
change!). I'm getting my algae problems under control and part of the 
reason there came from lurking on this list for several months - I 
increased my fertiliser dose since reducing it to zero hadn't helped! 
Another leap of faith - removing the biological filtration does not seem 
like a sound thing to do, neither does feeding nutrients to the tank if 
you have algae, but both have been highly positive steps for me. I also 
doubled my plant load.

My tank looks the best it has ever looked, and I'm actually relying on 
tank appearance rather than test results to guide me as to what I do. My 
java fern keeps producing adventitious plants at the leaf tips. I have an 
aponogeton (Ulvaceous ?) that keeps throwing flower spikes, the 
hygrophila keeps getting cut back, and my echinodorus are staying healthy 
and not succumbing to algae. Everything looks GREEN - it's a lovely 
colour! I'd like to reproduce Amano's "lawn effect" but I think I'd need 
a lot more lighting to succeed.

The tank seems quite stable as far as test results go, and I've stopped 
worrying about whether the whole experiment is going to crash.

I've noted a few comments in this Digest from some people like Karen 
Randell mentioning success with unfiltered tanks. At the stage I tried 
this, I had heard no comments about the possibility of successfully 
running an unfiltered plant tank and I was really into "risking" to see 
if I could control my slowly climbing nitrate level and solve my algae 
problem. I was encouraged by what I had read of reef tanks running 
successfully without "technological" biological filters - biological 
filtration does occur in the live rock as I suspect it also does in my 
substrate, and in and on my plants. I'm satisfied that it can work quite 
well in a plant tank. I have to admit to more than a little pride that I 
seem to be getting better results than a lot of people while breaking all 
the "accepted" rules and removing the filter.

I'm also finding the lower fish load attractive. At first I missed the 
larger number of fish. With the smaller numbers, the ones you see seem 
more interesting. They're all looking healthier (or is that the colour 
contrast with all that lovely green I now have), and they seem to act 
more natural or more relaxed with less crowding. Reef tanks also run with 
low fish loads, and I'm beginning to think that things really are 
healthier that way.

I've set up a second tank (a 2 foot) near a window with a small power 
head, some hygrophila and some java fern, and a pair of rams I took out 
of the 3 foot because they were aggressive. I'm relying on natural 
morning light through the window. Everything's going fine though I get a 
little smear algae on the tank walls. I should get around to upping the 
plant load the next time I prune the 3 foot.

I'd be really interested to hear some hints and comments about experience 
with unfiltered tanks from people like Karen and anyone else who has 
tried this approach. I'd really like to see a good book come out on 
planted tanks which looks at management techniques including this kind of 
natural tank approach, and which explains some of the biological workings 
of a planted tank. In fact, the contents schema for Vol.1 of "The Reef 
Aquarium" would be just about ideal from my point of view - some material 
on the natural environment, filtration techniques, nutrient control and 
supplementation, lighting, water movement, layout and design including 
the use of wood and rocks, and plants. You really couldn't beat it (this 
is a quite shameless hint/plea!). Maybe a book from members of the AGA  
with different chapters by different authors - there really does seem to 
be enough expertise on this List to fill the need. I hope Julian Sprung 
and Charles Delbeek don't try to sue for plagiarism if someone takes me 
up on this suggestion, but this is the kind of plagiarism that would be 
quite the sincerest form of flattery.

A parallel book, or a set of appendices, on DIY technology in the 
lighting/ CO2/ fertiliser area would really just top it off.

David Aiken