Environmental Impact of the Planted Tank?

Discussion in 'General Planted Tank Discussions' started by NeilW, 2 Dec 2009.

  1. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    Messages:
    1,146
    Location:
    Basingstoke, Hampshire
    Thought I would throw something in the pot for discussion out of curiosity. Bear with me on this, its a bit rambing :lol:

    Due to my shrimpy interest I started to take a look into marine Fire Shrimp as a possible future project. However the penny dropped as to the environmental impact of the average marine system. My main objections were to the collection of live rock, corals, and fish from reefs in a non-sustainable way. Looking further into the subject I realised this over-collection was a result of supply and demand; the reef enthusiasts vs. a way to earn a living for the locals. Taking a glance through the marine section of the PFK forum this seems to be a contradiction of ethics on behalf of the 'Tang Police'; being more concerned with swimming space of a particular species when these environmental issues in their own tanks seem the more obvious gripe? My brain is still confused as I look admiringly at wonderful natural looking marine tanks in PFK, and seeing a reef tank for real is something else! However for the benefit of myself I have now found out about tank bred fish (and Shrimp!), tank raised corals and 'eco-rock'. I also know TMC make a great effort to tank breed a lot of their livestock and their wild livestock comes from responsible sources. This site http://www.garf.org/index.shtml also showed some nice eco-friendly alternatives :)

    When I woke up this morning this made me think about the impact of the planted tank (as I had one!).

    As far as my tank was concerned I had only an 11w T5 PC on for 6 hours a day and a 5w filter. Power wasn't an issue with me though as most people burn off more power boiling kettles (guilty of myself = love of tea!). 16w is only roughly a quarter of the average 60w light bulb though. I don't think I can use this line though when I get the space to upgrade from a nano :oops: Of course nowadays some peoples houses can even be solar or wind powered!

    My shrimp are man-made, selectively bred creations that have never even sniffed the wild but I am not sure as to the origins of my Nerites. Can these be tank bred? Obviously the rocks would have been collected somewhere. Would the collection of terrestrial rock for the aquarium vastly change our landscape? (As a side note does anyone know as to where ADA get their sand? I know its lovely stuff but do they do anything else to it other then collect it, bag it, and brand it with an 'ADA'?).

    My plants would have been propagated by Tropica, but is it possible that some plants on the internet and such are collected from the wild, or does it work out more economical for them to grow their own?

    What impact does chucking various fishkeeping chemicals down the drain have on a water supply and on our rivers? Does the carbon in the water companies filters absorb this?

    How does using CO2 injection in a planted tank weigh up say against using a car?

    This isn't a sudden guilt attack, nor I am I planning on becoming the 'resident tree hugger' :p merely thinking aloud really. Don't get me wrong I know as the human species we cannot help to an extent causing an impact on the environment from collecting resources (arguably we don't 'need' most of these for basic subsistence so that isn't my issue). The destruction of natural habitats was what got me thinking. I found it the ultimate irony that something that aimed to replicate nature and celebrated it could be so harmful on the environment.

    I was just wondering however as to everyone else's thoughts on this and where they stood. Do you think this is even a relevant issue to most fishkeepers today?
     
  2. paul.in.kendal

    paul.in.kendal Member

    Messages:
    335
    Location:
    Kendal, Cumbria
    Certainly a relevant issue, Neil. It's something that troubled me getting into aquaria for the first time just this year. I'm doing daily 120 litre water changes (about the same as an extra power shower) at the moment, and that makes me uneasy. Yet we all use purified drinking water to flush the loo, which is a much bigger waste, so what's the answer? Pump my tank water down the lav?

    I don't think we should ignore the level of enjoyment the hobby provides - on that scale it's pretty environmentally benign compared to a lot of other pastimes.

    Shorter post, but just as rambling!
     
  3. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    Messages:
    1,146
    Location:
    Basingstoke, Hampshire
    120 litres a day sounds a lot of work! My water change is 5! :lol:

    I've always been confused as to the effect of excess water usage on the planet itself. I know that obviously its the cost if your on a meter, and during summer its an issue for everyone if all the water in the reservoir has gone. Is water a sustainable element as it can be filtered and reused?
     
  4. paul.in.kendal

    paul.in.kendal Member

    Messages:
    335
    Location:
    Kendal, Cumbria
    To be honest, the water changing is a breeze - I manage tea, toast, porridge making and Radio Four as well as a water change before work, no problem.

    To me the environmental concern about water use in Cumbria is not of the water running out (fat chance!), but the expense of water treatment and delivery followed by waste water treatment.
     
  5. James Marshall

    James Marshall Member

    Messages:
    316
    That's an interesting point about the effects of excessive tap water use, as it actualy impacts directly back on the hobby.
    Water treatment plants are not that effective at removing nitrate, infact the bio sand filters used work via the nitrogen cycle much the same as our aqurium filters, and actualy add to the nitrate levels. So water the water in London, having been recycled several times, sometimes has 60ppm of NO3. making water changes pointless in certain aquaria.

    Cheers,
    James
     
  6. Brenmuk

    Brenmuk Member

    Messages:
    198
    Location:
    Peterborough
    I do a 50% water change every 6 months on my NPT which is about 50l of water (tank is about 100 l). 2/3 of this comes from my water butt which is rain water so I use 15-20l of tap water every 6 months per w/c :D .

    But so what?!

    If all the fish keepers in the country stopped keeping fish tanks then I doubt it would make much impact to the UK water consumption. For example we get through in our house many 10's litres of water for flushing, dishwasher, washing machine baths & showers etc everyday.

    One aspect of keeping marines I don't like is the use of dynamite and cyanide for fish and coral collection but I think (I don't keep marines) that coral propagation (do they call it fragging?) and tropical marine fish breeding has come a long way in the last decade or so to alleviate this.
     
  7. AdAndrews

    AdAndrews Member

    Messages:
    1,125
    Location:
    Kidderminster, Worcs
    enviromentally wise, as brenmuk has suggested, marine keepers are more to blame :shifty: destruction of reefs is much worse. Regarding water, those than use RO systems waste much more as they use aswell.
     
  8. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

    Messages:
    1,949
    I bring this item up at every talk I give.
    It's not everyone's goal mind you, but it's in many folk's heads.

    Aquariums are a luxury item.
    However, they are also a good tool to teach and illustrate many things about the environment.

    I think given the fact they are luxury items, like cars and many things we have seemingly could not do without these days, even the computer we type upon(just 20 years ago, what's a computers?), many are seeking to improve the efficiency for cars, computers, farming/livestock practices, shipping etc. This same idea can be applied to aquariums and the non CO2 planted tank best illustrates this notion of the sustainable aquarium.

    No water changes, no test kits, low light, sediment based natural soil for nutrients, fish waste for the water column nutrients, good plant choices. Water is added for evaporation, fish are feed, and the waste products are sequestered in the form of plant biomass.

    I think for an 80 liter aquarium, using 24W for light(10 hours/day, maybe less), 4 watts for filter, the heater is the main source of energy.

    Not much else is needed. If more nutrients are added, CO2 etc, you can get more production per unit watt, but you also have more inputs/outputs. Nothing is going to beat the non CO2 planted tank for sustainable approaches as it's simple and requires the min for input and labor over time.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  9. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

    Messages:
    1,949
    The real issue is much more the energy use.
    Tap water is much cheaper than energy.
    Even in the desert and under tiered water rationing pricing, water changes are still very economical/cheap.

    High light, excessive light is much more the environmental problem than waste water which can be reused, added to the lawns, landscaping, be reused (as most wastewater is that is sent ot a treatment plant).

    Excessive light energy is wasted and ends up as algae, management issues, as well as increased direct cost, initial cost etc. Next to the heating system, it is the largest waste. Many suggest adding just enough for nutrients and cite environmental issues, well, why is this concept not pursued with the same vigor when it comes to adding just enough light?

    It's(light) curiously ignored, not measured etc.

    Still, the NO3 is a big issue, the best effective way to address this is using constructed wetlands, however, they do not work that well in the winter in cooler climates. The denitrification NO3=> N2 gas is the simplest way to address it, or to pipe the irrigation water to crop land with clays. Wetlands are very good at sequestering PO4 and transforming NO3 into N2 gas.

    So wetlands, marshes, etc are very good things for the environment, but often drained for crop land.
    Many wastewater treatment facilities use them in the USA and they are becoming more and more popular.

    Where there is little land/room, anaerobic denitrification digesters can be used and are for cattle and poultry operations.
    These sequester the rich waste and digest it into Methane gas which can be used the power other processes. In my local region, the cattle dairy industry recently put on line 2 large operations that produce 5% of the energy we use locally.

    http://www.newsreview.com/sacramento/co ... id=1317547

    Not bad manure.

    This energy can be used to drive most farming requirements and denitrification digester units.

    My research uses electric energy extremely efficiently to kill weeds.
    Other research uses Azolla to remove and sequester nutrients from waste water that can be fed back to livestock, even humans. Azolla has a better amino acid profile than Soy beans.

    It can double it's biomass in 2 days in the lab and every 5 days in the filed.
    If the N runs out and you have scrubbed the water clean, Azolla will use N2 fixing bacteria and still take up the PO4 as well.

    Changes in the ways agriculture are done and how wastewater treatment is done can certainly solve the issues.
    What is required is strong leadership, the technology is already there. ;)

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  10. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    Messages:
    1,146
    Location:
    Basingstoke, Hampshire
    Thats a valid point regarding the little water used by aquariums in comparison.

    Most marine tanks I have seen seemed to have a more dramatic and obvious impact on the environment from every part of the system.

    I never realised that something this sustainable was possible! No water changes?! I'm guessing the evaporation top up re-mineralises the water and dilutes the nitrates. Interesting stuff!

    This was also my thinking in terms of water as it is not 'used up' in the same way as energy consumption but goes back into a cycle? The water itself can still be used in some way.
     
  11. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    8,261
    Location:
    nr Bath
    Hi all,
    This is an interesting post, and it's something I've thought about a lot. I think there are things you can do to lessen the personal environmental impact of your fish keeping. As Tom suggests a low-tech approach certainly cuts down your environmental footprint, additionally if you can feed your fish on earth worms grown on kitchen waste, utilise natural light where possible, use rain water for your water changes (and use it to flush the toilet and wash your clothes as well), and to water the garden etc., it all makes some contribution (although possibly all the gains expunged by one journey to the LFS).

    Other areas are a lot greyer, personally I don't buy any wild collected fish, although there would be some argument for "sustainable collection" as a viable economic usage for many tropical forest areas, or buy any imported tropical wood, for example is the harvest of Mopani wood sustainable? I don't know, it may well be a sustainable harvest and a valuable source of income for some indigenous people, or it may be totally unsustainable. The same caveat would apply for special sands, ADA soil etc.

    So if you stay low-tech., grow your own plants, breed your own fish and make/breed/grow most of your fish food you can chop down your environmental footprint, which makes me feel better, but probably doesn't have any practical effect whatsoever.

    cheers Darrel
     
  12. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

    Messages:
    1,949
    Mopani is not the least bit sustainable.
    They use it for firewood in Africa, strange tree/scrub.
    It's more a dry scrub, almost desert plant, not a tropical rainforest type of thing, not that that makes much difference, each systems has it's merits. Swamps are of great value, but have long been viewed negatively, see Dante's Inferno for some wetland references of Hell itself.

    The deforestation of the African savanna in Malawi is as much of an issue as the rainforest of Gabon.

    Likewise, the draining of the wetlands in CA's central valley has decimated the Salmon along the pacific coast here(we have removed 96% of the wetlands in the last 140 or so years).

    However, I am pragmatic about all this. I see this as an opportunity to see if we can restore and add those/these ecosystem services back into these location sites. Road side landscapes: I see as potential habitat for many native species even the lowly road side mud puddle ditch full of water I see as a vernal pool. I see mountains and forest as water sheds that must be protected to ensure clean water.

    Likewise, as our attitudes can and do change fast, so can the approaches used for aquariums, these same approaches can be taught to the next generation.

    Non CO2 enriched planted tanks can easily go a year or more without any water changes, yes, top off for evaporation is required. If you chose the fish and livestock correctly, financially, you should break even at worst.

    Here's how:

    Cost: inputs
    Electric, water, food etc

    Cost Outputs: Plant sales(get good $ and free fish food this way), and say red cherry shrimp(breed easily and can be sold for good $$$)

    If you can sell say 20$ worth a month of plants or shrimps, you are doing very good.
    Energy should not be more than say 10$ for even a good sized aquarium over this time frame.

    This is a bit like using the aquarium as you might a sustainable organic farm with crops and livestock.
    I've really thought about this idea for sometime.

    The goal is the make a reasonable $, sustaining/low input/output(few trips of purchases after initial set up) and no to have to pay real money to keep it going, "Shrimp dollars", "plant dollars" only.
    You do not get much $ for your labor, but this is a hobby and you can enjoy it without doing much to the environment.
    This way you reduce imports for plants, shrimps etc and you can educate others of the benefits of wetalnds and the creatures and plants that live there.

    And even make a little $, all while going very green in terms of aquarium keeping.

    cube1.jpg

    Red cherries, Killifish(they bred in there), Java fern, some H difformis, no water changes for 9 months. I did use water column ferts, but soil could have been used instead also.

    Very simple.

    I'd get a better result with soil and with a large tank with a better light/filter etc.
    This is only 4 liters.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  13. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

    Messages:
    1,949
    Hummm, I think we can be very practical and reduce the bad trade offs by choosing RCS, good plants that can sell and that we also like. Aquatic plants are high value cash crops. We can get a lot of $ for various species, 2-10$ per stem for higher demand species, so balancing the market demands for the species we like and the ability to keep them with ease in our system are all trade offs there.

    Likewise, RCS are very easy to raise and select for super reds which will command a higher price.
    Fancy Guppies, Endler's, various other smaller shrimp compatible fish can be chosen.
    Even a riparium systems, set up with poison dart frogs that are raised can be done, or reptiles etc.

    What are the services that we desire from an aquarium?
    That is a real question that each person will want to ask themselves and it is a personal thing.

    I do however think it's important to raise the ideas and potentials for going with a general concept and how we can easily, with few trade offs and many benefits, achieve a good system so that others can use those ideas for their own approach and goals.

    Many do not realize you can have a planted tank that gets no water changes for years.
    Or consider RCS and plants as cash crops/livestock or consider where the main on goign cost come from and in/out balances.

    Once they do, then they can make their own decision.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  14. plantbrain

    plantbrain Expert

    Messages:
    1,949
    A little devils advocate here:

    While the low tech approach is good for the $. So is the higher tech CO2 enriched KNO3 dosed system as well.
    Since I get about 10-20X faster rates of growth using those methods, and I can chose the highest premium plants that I will raise and sell, I can go from 10-20$ a month, to 100$ a month if I willing to sell them. RCS can still be sold, but I cannot increase their production like I can for plants. So the plant production rate is much higher and I can get more $ for it. So that is the trade off, there, I get much more production per unit area and also, I get much mor eproduction per unit of energy used.

    I get higher light use efficiency and still use the same filter, but I will do water changes more frequently etc.
    So I use more water, a little more energy perhaps, so the cost and impact is not that much greater, but I get a lot more profit for my troubles.

    I made 200$ a month for 4-5 years selling plants this way using 3 aquariums.
    Energy cost was about 40$ per month, the water use was a whopping 2.20$ extra per month.

    I could have cut this by 1/2 and then reduced the plant sales to 20$.
    So I'd just barely break even vs making 150$ extra a month.

    If trying out species, making more $ off the hobby is the goal, then the trade off might go a different way :idea:
    Perhaps gardening is more the goal, then the CO2 will likely be chosen, or certain species selections etc.

    The trade offs are what are important to each person's goal.

    Regards,
    Tom Barr
     
  15. NeilW

    NeilW Member

    Messages:
    1,146
    Location:
    Basingstoke, Hampshire
    It seems I have captured your imagination with this topic Tom!
    Excuse my ignorance but where is it you do your talks? A fountain of knowledge you are.

    Stunning little tank! Is that a planted Azoo Mignon filter?!

    Thanks everyone,
    Neil
     
  16. dw1305

    dw1305 Expert

    Messages:
    8,261
    Location:
    nr Bath
    Hi all,
    I like the tank and filter too. I think both fish-keepers and anglers are likely to be more aware of the environment and it's importance than people who don't keep tanks. I look upon the tanks and gardens (at both home and work) as an educational tool, as well as a thing of beauty. I think they are more important to me, and my emotional well being, than any amount of money or material things.

    Here's my front garden pond, when I'd nearly finished it in 2008.
    pond1web.jpg
    I didn't export or buy in any soil or rocks (there is limestone only about 9" under the soil) and and the paving slabs, carpet underlay etc. was all re-cycled (other than the butyl liner, I did have one made from off-cuts welded together but I couldn't stop it leaking.)

    Personally I'm definitely be "in financial fishkeeping credit" for the last year, if I didn't include the electricity usage by the tanks, I'm not sure with the electricity included. I keep a spreadsheet with expenditure on it, and looking through it surprisingly I haven't actually bought anything aquarium related at all this year (including food etc.). I've just bought some Poret foam (from Germany), so I'll add that onto 2010, and see what the balance is like at the end of 2010.

    Although I've only sold a few fish (sub-adult Apistogramma - total a fairly pathetic £24 credit note), I've given away or swapped as many fish as well lots of dead wood, loquat leaves, alder cones, grindal/micro worm cultures, moss, plants, snails and RCS.

    cheers Darrel
     

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