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Where does nitrifying bacteria come from?
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Joined: 19 Dec 2006

PostPosted: 2007.01.04(Thu)22:13    Post subject: Where does nitrifying bacteria come from? Reply with quote

I've been reading a lot, and as far as I can tell, nitrosoma and nitrobacter don't form spores the way other organics-consuming bacteria does. How does the first nitrifying bacteria get into your fish tank?

This is especially true of fishless cycling tanks - if you just have water and ammonia in the tank, without outside sources of bacteria (like from dirt for example), where does your number 1 bacteria come from? From what I've read, I don't think it comes from just empty air.

I'd appreciate any thoughts on this, thanks.

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Joined: 04 Jan 2007

PostPosted: 2007.01.04(Thu)22:31    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm wondering the same thing, and since I 'newbishly' had my betta in the tank, so in my case, it came from the gut. at least thatz what was I was told by in my post.
2.5G betta with java fern
a freshman to aquariums; starting small & thinking big
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Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Location: Middle Georgia

PostPosted: 2007.01.04(Thu)22:53    Post subject: Reply with quote

The Nitrosoma and Nitrobacter are naturally occuring in your tap water. So once you introduce ammonia (NH3) the Nitrosoma eat it and produce a by-product called nitrite, then the Nitrobacter come along and turn the nitrite (NO2) into nitrate (NO3), and so the colony grows...
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Joined: 29 Mar 2005
Location: Melbourne, Australia

PostPosted: 2007.01.04(Thu)23:02    Post subject: Reply with quote

That is a very interesting question and one I've been trying to work out for a long time...

No, they don't form spores...I also highly doubt they come in through your tap water (how come rinsing your filter material in tapwater kills the biological filter then?). I would also rule out the gut as very improbable - harmless environmental bacteria (as a rule) do not need or have the ability to survive passage through the gut.

The only answer that I have is that the bacteria in non-spore form occur in the air as they are definitely small enough - exactly what you have ruled out. They don't have to be present in a high frequency, a single viable bacterium is enough to form a colony. This may also help explain why fishless cycling can take longer than fish cycling (assuming maintaining nitrogenous waste at safe levels is of no concern).
Fishing in the Rivers of Light
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Joined: 19 Dec 2006

PostPosted: 2007.01.04(Thu)23:26    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, I kinda think they have to be able to get airborne some how. Maybe not as a spore, but just a flying bacteria Smile

I live on the second floor. Hopfully, they can make it all the up here. Too bad I don't have a chimney.

I kind of wonder about estimates on how long it takes to cycle a tank. Many references say it takes 4 weeks or something like that. I read that in ideal conditions, nitrosoma and nitrobacter take 8 to 13 hours to double in population. Given our aquarium conditions, let's say it's 15 and 24 hours. So 2 weeks after the first bacteria (lets call him Adam!), you would have maybe 22 reproductive cycles? So about 4 million nitrosoma? I wonder how many bacteria you would need to balance the bioload of say 6 white clouds. I know there's lots of variables, like how much you feed them and stuff...but it'll be pretty cool if someone's seen that kind of data.

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Joined: 11 Jun 2003
Location: Phoenix, Arizona USA

PostPosted: 2007.01.04(Thu)23:43    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nitrifying bacteria (including the nitrite-oxidating Nitrospira) are naturally found in soil and aquatic environments. In our homes dust in the air carries bacteria, fungi, algae, and other microorganisms on minute particles of soil. That's the most likely source of nitrifying bacteria in our fish tanks.

If they don't form spores, they are still able to go into a dormant state when conditions are not favorable for metabolism, ready to revive when conditions are right. This is why the cycle gets established so fast when an old filter or biowheel that has been in storage is put to use again.
Happy fishkeeping!

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