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RE: Sphagnum, peat, moss

> From: William Vannerson
> Sent: Thursday, August 15, 2002 10:39 AM

> ...The key, as far as I understand (and I'm not a chemist),
> is that when the pH drops to 6.5 and lower, the biofilter's
> ability to naturally rid the water of harmful ammonia ceases.
>  But the fish keep adding to it via respiration and waste...

A quick interjection for clarification, if I may.

Acidity levels below pH 6.5 do indeed inhibit the growth of the biofilter
components, as well as other bacteria - it's why fungus and mold are bigger
problems than picture book infections. The bacteriostatic effect is
strengthened and compounded when you use peat to introduce humics and
humates into the solution, and the end effect is that virtually none of the
ammonia gets consumed and converted.

Your one "saving grace" is that as you drop the pH, ammonia is converted to
the less-reactive, and therefore slightly less deadly, ammonium ion, which
the fish are able to bear for just a bit more time and at higher
concentrations. This is counterbalanced by the building concentration, as
Bill pointed out, since there _isn't_ anything to remove it.

It's the fact that the steadily-increasing concentration is the biggest risk
factor, not necessarily the ammonium itself, that I wanted to make clear.

And you don't have to follow the Killie list to find examples of the
magnitude of the danger to which you expose fry in an ammonia/ium laden
environment. Pick a commercially-viable, known sensitive dinner table
species - Trout are an excellent example - and there have been more than a
bagful of studies for each. The more economically important the species, the
more likely you are to find someone who's tried to pinpoint, with
mathematical precision, the odds of getting X number of fish from Y cubic
yards of water from hatchling to plate.

But it's not like Nature left you hanging in the breeze on this thing, after
all. In fact, she gives you a "leg up" in this situation. You see, when it
comes to the ammonium ion *plants* have an affinity for it that's unequaled
by anything else I can think of at the moment. A tank with enough vegetative
growth can render a bacterial biofilter totally ineffective even in a pH
range that's conducive to the bacteria's welfare. And this is easily
possible even at the "normal Apisto" temperature and pH levels (ranging down
to very difficult, of course, if you're trying to reach below 4.5 or so for
things like Dicrossus).

Plenty of Java Moss, sure, for the fry - just remember that things move at a
slightly sluggish pace waiting for the moss to grow. But a thick tangle of
floating Water Sprite, which truly grows like a weed (really _excellent_
plant for Bettas, by the way), can soak up quite a bit of ammonium.
Certainly eases the burden of unrelenting water changes in fry tanks, and
even works for you "bare bottom" types.


As to the question - I believe it was Jerry's - of ammonia coming from a
peat loaded filter insert...Well, ammonia is a byproduct of the breakdown of
protein- or amino acid-based, nitrogen bearing tissues - live organic
matter, either recently or in the not-too-distant past to put a point on it.
Since this is not a normal component of peat itself, it would infer a
contaminant's introduction to the setup.

In support of this, and hopefully to ease your mind, I've had my peat
reactors running for a couple of years at a stretch, and I used to check
them regularly for nitrogen. Not because I was afraid of the peat
decomposing (even using garden peat), but that insects and what-not might be
making their way into the main body of water and rotting. I gave up checking
on them within a year of moving to Florida once, where I finally accepted
the fact that, even in a teeming sub-tropical setting, my RubberMaid was
fairly impervious to "invasion".

In all that time, I might as well have been throwing the money for test kits
out the window for all they ever found...


David A. Youngker

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