dr. johnson
Dr. Erik Johnson, DVM
Veterinarian, author and fish health specialist.
Visit his site at www.koivet.com
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10. Things I Learned

Difference between heterotrophs and nitrifiers:
Heterotrophs are usually mixtures of different strains of Bacillus. Bacillus bacteria can be strained to do a lot of different things, but are used mostly in the recovery of wastewater. Heterotrophs such as Bacillus subtilis can consume prodigious amounts of nitrogen. However, they may use a lot of nitrogen but they don't always or replicably use Ammonia and Nitrite. Usually their proficiency is at reduction of protein and other sludges which would contaminate or clog a bio- filtration system. Occasionally you can find a heterotroph which will "chip away" at the Ammonia and nitrite nitrogen forms.

Conditions necessary for survival of introduced nitrifiers I did not really understand or realize that nitrifiers were as "picky" as they are. I did not know that they REQUIRE a small amount of phosphate, and a hearty amount of carbonate alkalinity to do their job.

* A person using a "phoshpate-remover" or who underfeeds their fish might not have enough phosphate in the ecosystem. Introduction of a nitrifier into such an environment could cause product failure. To avoid this, the of a "Neutral Regulator" or "Buffer" which contains phosphates (phosphoric acid as a buffer) is recommended for best results with introduced nitrifiers.

* Carbonate levels under 70 PPM will disappoint as well. The nitrifiers depend upon the carbonates for optimum nitrogen reduction because the nitrifiers are robust Hydrogen-ion generators. Without carbonates, this manufacutre of hydrogen- ions will compromise water quality, which affects the fish as adversely as it does the beneficial bacteria. The nitrifiers also depend on some of the minerals in harder water to form essential parts of their cellular makeup. Well buffered water will increase the succes rate with any nirifier you're using.

Behavior of nitrifiers and some of their preferences:

Nitrifiers live on surfaces. Science once asserted that these bacteria were really FIXED on the surfaces and could not be dislodged without mechanical abrasion from surfaces. Science also held that these bacteria could not live "loose" in the water, and could not be bottled. The fact is that the bacteria live in a relatively soft stroma of material that attaches them to surfaces. Extreme water flows can simply rinse these bacteria away if these flows are sustained. I always thought that the "coating" which held the bacteria onto their media- surfaces was more like coral or something. Indeed, it's much more like rubber cement.

Did you know that nitrifiers will preferentially colonize media impregnated with carbon? I did not know this either but it is well known over at Aquarium Pharmaceuticals. It's the whole idea behind their BioStars. Carbon is REALLY attractive to nitrifying bacteria. If they made bead filters with a carbonized bead, they would really be "onto something".

Did you know that it DOES matter to the nitrifying bacteria; how smooth a surface is? Of course, introduced nitrifiers will grow absolutely anywhere they can get a hold, including glass and slick white PVC plumbing. However, porous surfaces and rough surfaces will be superior to, and more quickly colonized than, the smooth surfaces. This comes into play in bead filters. Beads which are smooth polytethylene are inevitably destined to be colonized. However, the rate at which the colonies would form and how successfully they would coat the bead would increase directly with the porosity of the bead. If manufacturer's sandblasted or tumbled the beads before employment in their filters, they'd really be "onto something".

In this vein, research has shown that TurboStart works optimally when the pond or facility is pre-treated with an aloe or polyionic coating solution. Examples of these solutions include FritzGuard (c) FI and Stress Coat (c) API. These two solutions only differ in their name. A legal conflict and separation has left the formulations identical and given the consumer the choice to select based on price. Buy whichever one is cheaper in your locality. The general idea is that the surfaces and bio-media (beads) in the system and filtration unit will become coated. Following shortly afterwards with the TurboStart dosage gives the bacteria an ideally prepared surface on which to settle and begin to colonize.

Replication rates of the nitrifiers:
Nitrifiers replicate daily. That wouldn't sound very odd to most people, but regular bacteria can replicate many times per hour. So we realize that nitrifiers are slow to replicate. Slow to colonize. This is why pond people with large volumes of water need the concentrated Fritz TurboStart and not the watered down FritzZyme.

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