Dr Timothy Hovanec's comments about Bacterial supplements

dw1305

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Hi all,
People who have been following the <"Bacteria in a Bottle"> thread may have seen that I said I'd try and contact Tim Hovanec and ask him a few questions about bacterial supplements.

Dr Hovanec was kind enough to send a very thorough, and interesting reply, to the email, and has given me permission to post it on UKAPS

I'll post his reply first, before <"the question">, because I guess most people will much more interested in Dr Hovanec's comments rather than my questions, and this is his reply:
Thank you for the email. Perhaps when we are allowed to travel sometime, I could give a talk to your club (right now I am giving Skype/zoom talks due to COVID) as I always like discussing bacteria !

The short answer to your question, and I am not trying to be flippant, is that the more we learn the more we don’t know.

By this I mean that there doesn’t seem to be ‘one’ answer that covers all aquarium situations.

There are definitely difference between freshwater and saltwater - I showed that back in 1998 ! More research such as Bagchi 2014 and the attached paper confirmed that.

Marine Comammox Nitrospira have not been found what that means hard to say at this point

There are few studies done on aquariums, more on aquaculture can one use aquaculture results for aquariums

As to your specific questions

Whether the production method for "One and Only" has changed?

One and Only has changed from my previous ‘invention’ which was BioSpira® or now Tetra SafeStart. I did not wish to incur any problems with my previous company which was acquired by the company that also owned Tetra and my lab shutdown. One and Only was a different product compared to BioSpira® from the start of DrTim’s Aquatics

Whether the assemblage of microbe present in the product has changed to reflect this new research?
I am not sure how this will sound but the ‘recent research’ is really not that recent it is just not widely published. The Comammox Nitrospira yes, but the AOA - no. However, as a private company there was no benefit to publishing research and to tell you the truth most people don’t seem to believe anything coming from a private company that sells bacteria. If you look at the forums the overwhelming opinion (at least by the very vocal minority of self-proclaimed experts) is that bacteria can’t live in a bottle, supplements don’t work and it is all just snake oil. I gave up fighting that long ago. This vocal minority seems to think science does not pertain to aquariums but it very much does and biology is complex - that’s the fun part!

That said, DrTim’s One and Only has had AOA’s since the beginning. I hedged the product by only making two types - freshwater and marine and adding AOB, AOA and Nitrospira to each. The exact details I will not disclose for obvious reasons but I am very good at growing these bacteria - I have been doing it for 25 years!. I have attached a recent paper by Urakawa and Sipos that details the assemblage make up on One and Only for your review it is mostly correct.

As to these questions

whether ammonia addition is necessary? - yes it is but the amount should be limited – never go above 5 mg/L ammonia-nitrogen or nitrite-nitrogen.

do bacterial supplements work? - mine do and the Tetra product is still pretty good but I have not been involved with that for 13 years. However, most of the products on the market are 100% crap. They do not contain nitrifiers at all. Just marketing BS in bottles covered with bright labels. I am in the process of writing a paper about this and you are welcome to check back periodically to ask if I am finished and I will gladly send you a copy.

is cycling as a concept useful? I am not sure what is meant by this. If you set-up an aquarium and add fish you are going to get ammonia and most likely the fish will die of ammonia poisoning (or nitrite poisoning) if you don’t intervene in some fashion. Of course, it is not a cycle because you are not, and don’t want to, create ammonia as in ammonia—>nitrite—>nitrate—>ammonia but I long stopped quibbling over the wording. You need nitrification and you need bacteria - I just call them nitrifiers in most cases to the general public. That said, my bacteria products are like any other living organism - they have preferences and just tossing them into some water does not guarantee success. The user has some responsibility to provide a decent environment.

I have attached some info for you to review - paper and video

Happy to answer any questions
cheers Darrel
 
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dw1305

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Hi all,
This was the original email I sent.
My name is Darrel Watts and when I'm not at work I'm a science adviser for the <"United Kingdom Aquatic Plant Society (UKAPS)">. This is a forum which deals with planted tanks, and has a mixed membership, mainly, but not exclusively, from the UK, with a fair sprinkling of scientists as members and a generally "informed" level of debate.

I have an academic interest in the phytoremediation of polluted water, but I'm not a microbiologist or chemist, I'm a botanist. I've also been a very long term keeper of aquarium fish in planted tanks.I have a particular interest in developing stable and robust techniques for biological filtration, which aren't reliant on chemical testing and follow a risk management approach of removing single points of failure.

We are not asking you for any commercial information, but our questions are:

In the light of recent scientific research on aquarium filters, the discovery of COMAMMOX Nitrospira, and the ever increasing assemblage of ammonia oxidising microorganisms found to perform nitrification, we are interested in:
  • Whether the production method for "One and Only" has changed? and
  • Whether the assemblage of microbe present in the product has changed to reflect this new research?
We've contacted you following reading your, very interesting, article "Bacteria Revealed" and some wider questions on the forum about nitrification: "whether ammonia addition is necessary", "do bacterial supplements work" and "is cycling as a concept useful?".

The debate has "spilled over" from my work and is based on the research in papers like

Bagchi et al. (2014) "Temporal and Spatial Stability of Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaea and Bacteria in Aquarium Biofilters".
Koch et al. (2019) "Complete nitrification: insights into the ecophysiology of comammox Nitrospira"
Sauder, L. et al. (2018) “Candidatus Nitrosotenuis aquarius,” an Ammonia-Oxidizing Archaeon from a Freshwater Aquarium Biofilter".

Apologies for the long email

Yours Darrel
cheers Darrel
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
And this was Dr Hovanec's final comment.
.... I looked quickly at the forum post and one thing that comes to mind is that people need to know that not all Nitrospira are Comammox organisms - it seems people are confusing this. There are Nitrospira that are traditional nitrite-oxidizers and other Nitrospira that are Comammox
cheers Darrel
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
I should have also put in the attachments.

These were:



"TOP 13 THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW WHEN STARTING YOUR AQUARIUM - Using DrTim’s Aquatics One & OnlyTM Live Nitrifying Bacteria"
I can't find a link for one, and it is a pdf, so if any-one wants a copy they are best of PMing me.

and two scientific papers:

Hüpeden, J. et al (2020) <"Taxonomic and functional profiling of nitrifying biofilms in freshwater, brackish and marine RAS biofilters"> Aquacultural Engineering 90.

Urakawa, H. & Sipos, A. (2020)<"Application of the consortia of nitrifying archaea and bacteria for fish transportation may be beneficial for fish trading and aquaculture"> Aquaculture Research 51:8

cheers Darrel
 

chrisfraser05

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Really good to see him reach out and respond to you.

I did alot of research a few years back (2014 i think) and decided to move my whole reef tank stock to a new tank with dead rock using Dr Tims.

I only saw the smallest Ammo spike over a day and then it dropped right off and that was that.
Never lost a single fish.

I did a day by day thread on ultimate reef, really half expecting to have to move everything back to the old tank (which i was feeding pure ammo to keep it ready).

i really 100% rate his products and his research/opinion.
 

Ed Wiser

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I know Tim well.
We are finding now in reef aquaria that the microbiome of live rock from the ocean plays a ever big factor in reef tanks success.
We just had a talk at MACNA 2020 online about this research done by the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.
 

jaypeecee

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Hi @dw1305 & Everyone,

Thanks a lot, Darrel, for contacting Dr Timothy Hovanec. And what a reply!

I was growing weary of trying to argue the case for at least one bottled bacteria product and also the use of ammonia. Now, people can reappraise the potential benefit of these products.

Whew!

Thanks, Dr Tim.

JPC :)
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
And what a reply!
Yes it was a more comprehensive reply than I could have hoped for, and it just reinforces my view that he is one of the good guys.
Now, people can reappraise the potential benefit of these products.
Personally I'm never going down that route, but if you:
  1. Did want to keep a tank without plants,
  2. and didn't have any filter media from another filter
Then I'd be more than happy to follow Dr Hovanec's advice.

You could go down the ammonia and cycle route and then "plant the tank and wait". My guess is that might offer the best of both worlds, but I'm not well informed to pass educated comment. I think @Cor used this approach with a dark period using Amazonia (which would leech ammonia).

cheers Darrel
 
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Cor

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I think @Cor used this approach with a dark period using Amazonia (which would leech ammonia).
I can't pas a educated comment also, even not a chemical or biologica one.
But I always use this plantles cycle aka dark-start approach with soil like amazonia e.a.: no lights, no CO2, only filter running and a slightly higher temp.
Do this for 3 weeks and there's no ammonia leech

Not my invention do: here is were I get it from: No Water Changes in a new Aquascape! *Secret DARK START method*
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
Plant the tank and wait - for what specifically?
For an appropriate microbial flora to develop.

Because we know that the composition of the microbial assemblage is fluid, Dr Hovanec's product would give you an initial inoculum of nitrifying organisms, but the flora that develops under high ammonia loadings will differ from the assemblage that occurs in the tank once it is planted and ammonia levels are much lower.
Just interested - why would you never go down the route of bottled nitrifiers and ammonia?
Because I'm always going to have heavily planted tanks, with plant/microbe nitrification.

I'm never going to have high ammonia levels, so why would I want a microbial assemblage that has developed under them? It is going to convert to a "low ammonia" assemblage with time.

The only advantage would be that it would allow me to add a larger fish load to a tank that wasn't grown in. You just need to reduce ammonia and nitrite levels as quickly as possible once fish are in the tank, it doesn't matter how you get there.

In the "not grown in" scenario I would still rather use fast growing floating plants as my "safety net".

cheers Darrel
 
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Tim Harrison

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Hi @dw1305


Plant the tank and wait - for what specifically?


Just interested - why would you never go down the route of bottled nitrifiers and ammonia?

JPC
Put simply, I think the advice is still the same. A planted tank doesn't need bacteria in a bottle or additional ammonia to cycle.
That is unless your plants are plastic...
 

shangman

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As a new fish-keeper, I read loads of info on the internet, and then convincing myself my tank was cycled after 3 weeks with ammonia dosing (all the tests I bought said 0,0,0) and of course then accidentally killed all my new fish and shrimps. I know now I did loads of beginner mistakes, but I think that the way cycling is explained facilitates those mistakes.

I think that the idea of 'maturation' is a really helpful one. It says... just calm down, wait, and don't try to get around it with any gizmos or science or anything. Have patience, do water changes, and let everything grow. Remember that you're building a mini ecosystem, and that that takes time. It's the fool-hardy method. I'm sure experienced people can get around this waiting time, but I certainly won't be trying to, seems like a lot of effort when you can just let nature take its course.
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
......and then convincing myself my tank was cycled after 3 weeks with ammonia dosing (all the tests I bought said 0,0,0) and of course then accidentally killed all my new fish and shrimps. I know now I did loads of beginner mistakes, but I think that the way cycling is explained facilitates those mistakes.....
Unfortunately yours is quite a common experience. It is certainly <"where I started">.

That is why I like the <"plant and wait"> method, ( using the <"Duckweed Index">), you aren't reliant on measuring a parameter you can't see, you just need to be able to look and assess plant growth.
...... just calm down, wait, and don't try to get around it with any gizmos or science or anything. Have patience, do water changes, and let everything grow. Remember that you're building a mini ecosystem, and that that takes time. It's the fool-hardy method.
Yes, that what I think as well.

It is really all down to probability, it isn't that cycling or <"test kits doesn't work">, it is just ask the question "what is the method that has the smallest probability of failure? " and I'm pretty sure the answers are
cheers Darrel
 

Zeus.

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If we was planting our tanks with all the 1-2 grow pots then we would be introducing very few bacteria as these pots will be 'relatively' sterile, however when starting a new planted tank there will always most often be some plants that have come from tanks with a wide range of bacteria in then, even with the limited numbers of bacteria they will soon multiply and when we add other livestock we introduce more bacteria with them. So why pay for something which you can get free, throw in a few roots from weeds from the garden for 24hrs and let nature do the rest.

If what we was doing buy adding NO 'cultures in a bottle' wasnt working lots of tanks would be crashing, they aren't if you follow the simple guidelines.

I just ran my filter with the garden waste bin full of water for about 6 weeks and added some liquid UREA ( glass full every few days) had fish in very soon after flooding my DSM
 

dw1305

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Hi all,
If what we was doing buy adding NO 'cultures in a bottle' wasnt working lots of tanks would be crashing, they aren't if you follow the simple guidelines.
That is it, a few people have asked whether any-one has "cycled" a tank <"just with plants">, or whether it is a <"theoretical idea, with no practical application">.
Yes, the nitrogen cycle must be completed to ensure any waste products from fish or shrimp are converted into less harmful products by your filter. Plants can remove a little ammonia but nowhere near enough to keep water safe for your livestock......
I'e found that it has been a real struggle to get people to think more widely about biological filtration and water quality, partially because the idea of <"fishless cycling is so entrenched">, and a lot of forums and literature still look upon plants as decorative or, at best, only a very minor component of the filtration system.

I think opinion is slowly changing, with more <"planted tank keepers who are also accomplished fish keepers/breeders">.
We are finding now in reef aquaria that the microbiome of live rock from the ocean plays a ever big factor in reef tanks success.
I'm not a reef keeper, but in some ways I see that is an extension of the ideas of stability and biodiversity. Marine aquarists are hampered by the lack of <"marine angiosperms"> and the cost of water changes.

cheers Darrel
 
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