Marine aquarium

Bacteria in a marine aquarium

When you think of a beautiful marine aquarium, you see colorful corals and fish. However, the most important aquarium inhabitants are not visible to the naked eye. These are bacteria which are responsible for some of the most important biochemical processes in a marine aquarium and to a large extent also for the health of fish and corals. Bacterioplankton is also an important part of the diet of corals. It’s safe to say that if the bacteria in a marine aquarium are in good shape, the whole aquarium looks good.

There are several groups of bacteria in an aquarium, but I will focus on two: saprophytic bacteria and nitrogenous bacteria, also known as nitrifying bacteria.

Saprophytic bacteria in a marine aquarium

Saprophytes are generally organisms that derive energy from the decomposition of dead organic debris, and there are quite a few of these in the marine aquarium, such as the so-called detritus which includes fish feces, dead plant and animal remains, coral mucus or uneaten food scraps. All this will sooner or later sink to the bottom and, get fragmented by small sand organisms and begin to penetrate deep into the sand.

Saprophytic bacteria in the aquarium play a very important role, breaking down organic matter into simple inorganic compounds. This prevents detritus from accumulating in the sand. Otherwise, it would become a ticking time bomb that would sooner or later explode.

Nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria in the marine aquarium

The second group of bacteria, which are essential for the health of a reef aquarium are nitrogenous bacteria. They include various strains of nitrifying and denitrifying bacteria, which are responsible for the so-called nitrogen cycle. The nitrogen cycle, also called the “N cycle”, is a set of chemical processes in which highly toxic ammonia (NH3) is oxidized first to relatively safe nitrates (NO3), which in turn are reduced to molecular nitrogen (N2). Without nitrogenous bacteria in the aquarium, it would not be possible to keep fish there, because within days they would be poisoned by ammonia from their own feces.

What affects bacteria in a marine aquarium?

It is often the case that useful organisms are very fragile and sensitive to environmental changes, while harmful ones are resistant to bad conditions. The same is true for bacteria. Temperature peaks, especially in summer, intensive filtration, the use of chemical products or fluctuations in oxygenation quickly weaken the bacterial flora in the aquarium, which often manifests in the changes of water parameters, fish diseases or algae and cyanobacteria infestation.  In addition, nitrogenous bacteria multiply very slowly, which means that weakening their strains will have consequences for several weeks. Therefore, it is a good idea to regularly replenish the bacteria in the marine aquarium with the right products.

What products with bacteria to use in a marine aquarium?

A wise aquarist should be aware of the need to take care of the bacterial flora in the aquarium, which is unfortunately very difficult due to the inability to directly control the state of the bacteria. Fortunately, you can add bacteria to the aquarium. Two products are perfect for this: Tropical Marine Power Bacto-Active with saprophytic bacteria and Tropical Marine Power Nitri-Active with nitrifying bacteria. Both are composed to complement each other, so consider using them alternately.

How to feed bacteria products to marine aquarium?

Bacteria should be fed with the skimmer and ozonator turned off (if you use one). They can be poured directly into the water, but to increase their efficiency, the planned dose can be diluted with aquarium water and administered directly under the surface of the sand using a long pipette. This will keep most of the bacteria on the substrate and prevent them from circulating in the water.

When to feed bacteria to a marine aquarium?

Bacteria should be dosed regularly, especially in young aquariums where the bacterial population is not yet properly developed and the nitrogen cycle is unstable. In mature tanks, the doses of both products can be reduced, but keep in mind after stressful situations, such as: temperature spikes, power outages or antibiotic treatment you can apply higher dose.

Bacteria are the basis of any stable ecosystem, including, of course, reef ecosystems and our home aquariums. Although it is difficult to observe them directly, you can be sure that they live in the nooks and crannies of the rocks and in the sand and they are doing a good job. And if something is not right in your tank, maybe it is just a sign that they need more of your attention.

Bartek Stańczyk

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